Over the last week, even as COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu rose to 1075, allegations have erupted that the numbers released by the state government do not represent the actual picture. In two cases that TNM delved into, families and victims offer a version starkly different to that of the hospital and the government.
The first case involves a 57-year-old employee of IndiGo Airlines who died on Friday, after being admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital. According to sources close to the family, the man had been working as an engineer with the airlines and had previously been in the air force. He was present at work till March 25, following which he developed symptoms of coronavirus including breathlessness.
The engineer, his wife and 25-year-old son were then quarantined and tested for the virus.
"But the hospital claimed they were all negative," says a source close to the family. "They let the son go and continued to keep the parents under quarantine. If the intention was to keep those in contact under observation, why allow the son to go? And after he died on Friday, they have continued to keep his wife in the hospital. The family further had to agree that it was not a case of coronavirus for the body to be discharged," he alleges.
However, IndiGo has given a statement that is in clear contrast to the hospital and government's stand.
In a statement, the airline said that one of its engineers based in the Chennai airport died of the coronavirus.
"We are extremely sorry and saddened by the demise of one of our beloved employees in Chennai due to infection of Covid 19 virus. We are providing all support to the family and stand with it in this hour of deep grief. This is a heartbreaking moment for all of us at IndiGo and in this time of sorrow we stand with his family," the airline stated.
After the body was handed over, the family struggled to find a place to cremate him.
"The first location they went to, locals refused to allow them to cremate the body there saying he had COVID-19. The family had to use political influence to conduct the last rites," says the source.
The government however had denied that the engineer tested positive for the virus.
The dean of RGGHS told ToI that the deceased only had 'breathlessness'.
In the second case, a 56-year-old patient admitted to the Tamil Nadu Government Multi Specialty Hospital at the Omandurar Government hospital has alleged that a patient whose test results were yet to arrive, had been placed in a ward with COVID-19 patients.
The retired civil servant who spoke to TNM, was brought to the hospital on April 2.
"I was tested COVID-19 positive on April 5 and the other younger person in the ward with me is also positive for the virus. But the patient they brought here on Friday night had not even got his results yet," he alleges. "He could get infected by us," he points out.
In a video that the retired civil servant has taken in the ward, he can be heard asking if the middle-aged man's test results had come and the man who is wearing an oxygen mask shakes his head to say no.
The Dean of the hospital Dr. Narayanababu however denied the allegation and stated that the even the retired civil servant had not even tested positive yet and that he was merely under quarantine.
However, when TNM spoke to the younger patient seen in the video, he too maintained that he was COVID-19 positive along with the complainant. He however denied knowledge about the status of the man who was allegedly kept in the ward over suspicion of infection.
Tamil Nadu Health Secretary, Beela Rajesh too dismissed the question when asked about the video and these allegations in the press conference on Sunday.
Speaking to the media, despite repeated questions, she claimed, "Positive and negative patients are kept separately."