Kerala cancels 14-day quarantine for health workers, nurses upset over move
The recent order by the Kerala government stating that health workers involved in the care of COVID-19 patients or people suspected to have the disease, need not undergo regular quarantine has met with strong opposition from the state’s nursing community. According to the nurses, the change in quarantine guidelines based on Centre’s directions, will be a disastrous move.
Health care workers including nurses who work in isolation wards or in direct contact with the patients have so far been undergoing quarantine for 14 days after working at a continuous stretch. But as per the new order issued on June 20, which was based on the guidelines of the Centre, ‘regular quarantine of health workers after performing duty in COVID-19 areas is not warranted’.
As per the new guideline, instead of the 14-day quarantine period, the staff who are directly involved in the care of COVID-19 confirmed or suspected people, are given continuous ‘off days’ of varying periods.
Those working in intensive care units for COVID-19 patients, and have continuously worked for 10 days, will get 10 days off. Those working in isolation wards with COVID-19 patients, will get only seven days off day after 10 days of work.
Those working in intensive care units and isolation wards where patients who are suspected to have COVID-19 are treated, will also get a seven day off period.
“So far during our duty period, we had been staying in the hostels of hospitals or in the facilities provided for the health staff, without going home. And after the duty period, we used to be quarantined. But now with the change in regulation which is said to be enforced from July 1, after our duty period, we should go back to homes without undergoing quarantine in hostels. This is too risky considering reports of health workers in the state getting infected. The move is only going to increase the spread of the virus among health workers,” Pappa Henry, nurse at the Government Medical College in Kottayam tells TNM.
Though the staff is advised to undergo quarantine at home, the order says there is no need for ‘regular quarantine’. It does not, however, specify home quarantine either.
“Though compared to other states, it has been less, Kerala has also witnessed multiple instances of health care workers especially nurses getting infected despite wearing all the protective gear. In this situation asking us to go back to home is dangerous,” said Khamaru Zaman, state secretariat member of Kerala Government Nurses Association.