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How one grocer infected 35 people, made Tughlaqabad Extension Delhi’s 3rd-biggest hotspot

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Gali number 26, the epicentre of the Tughlaqabad Extension Covid-19 hotspot in Delhi | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Gali number 26, the epicentre of the Tughlaqabad Extension Covid-19 hotspot in Delhi | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint


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New Delhi: In the narrow lanes of New Delhi’s Tughlaqabad Extension, life under complete lockdown has become the new normal. The area in south-eastern Delhi is home to 43,000 people, but their lives are restricted by police barricades cordoning off every lane and bylane — that’s as far as they’re allowed to go, and only to pick up essential goods.

The four lanes from gali number 24 to 28 comprise Delhi’s third-largest Covid-19 hotspot after Nizamuddin and Chandni Mahal — 35 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus here just last week, all of whom are part of the same extended family. At the centre of the family — and the infection — is a 50-something grocer who owns a shop at the intersection of gali number 26 and 27 who, unaware of the virus he was carrying, went about his business.

The grocer and his brother, who runs a cable shop, were the first to test positive in Tughlaqabad Extension, but by the time they could be diagnosed, they had already met and spent time with members of their extended family and friends, and served customers. The infection had already spread.

A local volunteer stands guard outside gali number 26 to enforce the complete lockdown | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
A local volunteer stands guard outside gali number 26 to enforce the complete lockdown | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

“About 90 per cent of the 35 cases belong to the grocer’s extended family — they occupy about 15-20 of the 30 houses in gali number 26,” said Pankaj Tiwari, a resident who is also volunteering with the Delhi Police to keep the area cordoned off.

At least 130 of Delhi’s 2,300 Covid-19 cases are in south-east Delhi, while Tughlaqabad is one of 89 hotspots in the capital, according to official figures as on Thursday.


Also read: How a 55-year-old Delhi woman infected 31 people with coronavirus before her death


Strict containment

Rules for hotspots mandate that not just contacts of positive patients, but all residents showing flu-like symptoms be tested for Covid-19. About 100 more people have been tested and their results are awaited. In the meantime, the police and workers of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation are trying to ensure the disease stays contained within the area, even though the infected individuals have been shifted to different hospitals and quarantine centres.

“The biggest challenge is ensuring no one steps out of their homes. Police and MCD are conducting awareness programmes, visiting homes in PPEs to urge residents to stay home,” said Satish Rana, station house officer at the Govindpuri police station, which oversees the area.

“Those attempting to step out of barricaded lanes are being reprimanded to go back inside.”

A resident sits on his balcony in Tughlaqabad Extension | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
A resident sits on his balcony in Tughlaqabad Extension | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Even doctors living in Tughlaqbad Extension are not allowed to go out. “I work at Nehru Nagar Hospital, but because I live in this hotspot, I can’t step out. What if I am asymptomatic and spread the infection to my patients? Ninety per cent of the cases in this area too were asymptomatic — they neither had a sore throat, nor cough, fever or breathlessness,” said resident Dr Ved Prakash.

The risk of asymptomatic patients in the area has only heightened the need for social distancing and sanitisation. Municipal workers in hazmat suits sanitise the lanes at least three times a day.

“We are given new suits every day. The suits are provided upon arrival, and after sanitisation work is done, they are then packed in containers and taken away to be burnt,” said Rakesh Bharadwaj, a sanitation worker.

With no choice, residents are coping how they can with these curbs.

A resident picks up essential goods from the barricade at the end of a lane in Tughlaqabad Extension | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
A resident picks up essential goods from the barricade at the end of a lane in Tughlaqabad Extension | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

“We have been locked down for over three weeks now. We only step out to the barricades to pick up essentials,” said a resident from his balcony.

Local shops have started digital payments, orders are placed on mobile phones, and deliveries made to the nearest police barricade. Shopkeepers depute their staff to put the items at the pavement next to the nearest barricade, residents pay digitally, pick up their essentials and venture back inside.

“We also feel scared, but essentials have to be delivered. We ask staff and residents to maintain at least 1.5 metres distance,” said grocery shop owner Mukesh Jain.


Also read: No salary for months, Delhi municipal staff’s struggles have multiplied in Covid lockdown


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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