Are unsanitary conditions making people run away from COVID-19 wards?

Several people have stated on social media that the isolation and observation wards, where the suspected coronavirus cases are being taken, are unhygienic and unsanitary.
Are unsanitary conditions making people run away from COVID-19 wards?
Are unsanitary conditions making people run away from COVID-19 wards?

Over the past few days, there have been multiple instances across India where persons suspected of having the coronavirus have been reported missing or have run away from quarantine centres or hospitals where they were asked to be in isolation. While the phenomenon has been condemned by many across social media, several people have also pointed out that the isolation and observation wards, where the patients are being taken, are unhygienic and unsanitary. 

A recent case that brought to light the conditions of the hospital wards was the Facebook post of the family friend of the Bengaluru Google techie who tested positive for coronavirus. A media report had claimed that his wife, a suspected case of coronavirus, ‘fled’ from the observation ward — a claim that was later found to be untrue. The friend’s Facebook post showed pictures of a clogged toilet, paan-stained washbasins and a dirty bathroom floor at the government hospital in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where she was taken for observation and to submit her samples. The friend wrote that the woman's family had therefore requested that she be allowed to leave and that the hospital had granted her permission to do so.

This is not the only instance. The family of the 76-year Kalaburagi man who died and was later found to be positive for COVID-19, has also made similar allegations about the facility that they were taken to. The man’s son told TNM that no one had cleaned the isolation ward where they were put up ever since they were taken there on Friday last week and that the cleaning staff had gone on leave.

Many others shared videos on Twitter of the terrible conditions of the toilets of the wards. A Mumbai resident shared pictures of the city’s Kasturba Hospital, which has been designated as an isolation ward, where his friend was taken for observation. The pictures showed a dirty washroom and a stray cat roaming around under the beds.

A 21-year-old student, who landed from Spain in Delhi on Monday, told TNM that she was first asked to wait at the Delhi airport for three hours without food and water. People at the airport were also rude to her and allegedly said to her, “Stay away from us, you are all going to die.” 

The student, who had gone to Spain for an exchange programme, told TNM that she and other students who were with her were taken from the airport by bus to an isolation ward in Narela, on the outskirts of Delhi, which was also very unsanitary. “The toilet was dirty, there was no electricity or water…when we asked for water, they told us, 'go drink from the tap’,” she told TNM. She added that she has no symptoms but no tests were conducted on her or any of her fellow students.

The toilet at the ward that the student was taken to

Even as such experiences were being shared from across India, on Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that the government will be tying up with three-star hotels which will serve as ‘pay and quarantine’ centres. “Delhi govt has asked 3 hotels near the airport to set aside 182 rooms for this purpose, at a fixed price,” the Delhi Chief Minister tweeted. 

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