Himadri Barman, a post-doctoral researcher in China, who was flying into India from Bangkok earlier this week, knew about the coronavirus outbreak and the risks of transmission. So, when he arrived at Kolkata airport on Tuesday, he decided to volunteer for getting screened for coronavirus himself. He was released from the Beliaghata ID Hospital on Thursday after he tested negative for the virus.
However, he realised that much to his shock, that news agency PTI had wrongly published a story saying that he and another passenger who had arrived at Kolkata airport that day had tested positive for coronavirus and were quarantined. The story also had their names, and was picked up by most newspapers and websites.
Upset at this breach of privacy and incorrect reporting, Himadri took to Facebook on Thursday evening to clarify the matter. “Also, listen, it's not that the Airport found me sick with symptoms and their thermal scanning detected high temperature in my body. It's me who wanted to volunteer in the process of diagnosing the possibility of the novel #Coronavirus aka #nCOV. I know better than you what happens or happened inside the hospital,” he wrote.
In the photos attached with the post was a copy of his discharge summary on a West Bengal government’s Department of Health and Family Welfare letterhead. It highlighted that he had tested negative for coronavirus.
Speaking to TNM about the incorrect reporting, Himadri said, “Not only was this incorrect information, but also impossible. The PTI story quoted an airport official who said that I and another passenger had tested positive. How can someone be diagnosed on the same day?”
“Besides, the hospital in Kolkata does not have a quarantine. I was inside, the hospital, I know. No one tested positive for the virus at the hospital that day to the best of my knowledge. The news outlets that published the story did not bother to re-confirm this, did not try to get in touch with me, or the hospital either. It was very irresponsible,” he added.
He argued that the airport official quoted in the PTI report was not the substantial authority to confirm the diagnosis. However, no reporter bothered to reconfirm this. “This is very dangerous, especially in sensitive times like this. I got so agitated when I saw my name in the reports. There should have been some sense of discretion and responsibility to omit the name in such a sensitive situation,” Himadri said.
On Thursday, the West Bengal Health and Family Welfare Department also put out a statement that the news of two people being tested positive for coronavirus was false. "The Department of Health and Family Welfare Government of West Bengal hereby informs the general public that no one in West Bengal has tested positive till date. The statement attributed to the Airport Director is factually incorrect. The State Government has been diligently dealing with the matter and as of the evening of 13 February 2020, of all the persons screened and samples taken n the State, not a single person has tested positive," the statement said.
Read Himadri’s post here.