Doctors’ kin forced to live with ‘coronavirus stigma’

CMO office paper leak results in a nightmare for COVID-19 positive doctor’s relatives, reports Kulsum Mustafa

The leakage of an official document from the Chief Medical Officer, Lucknow’s office, carrying the names, age, phone numbers and addresses of a Corona Virus positive patient’s relatives have resulted in widespread panic in the state capital and also brought in its wake tremendous trauma for the 12 members of this joint family, living in separate houses, located in two different localities of Lucknow.

In-home isolation after testing negative for the COVID-19 virus as a precautionary measure both the houses were sealed and police posted outside. But the leaked document, dated March 12th 2020, from the CMO’s office, has found its way to many WhatsApp groups which has unleashed unfounded agony on the already traumatized family. They are being flooded with hundreds of crank calls at all hours of the day. They are finding this an unwanted intrusion on their privacy and fearing for their safety and well being.

It all started with the 31-year-old, Canada based doctor testing positive for the COVID -19 virus. She had come to India from Toronto to her in-laws home in Gomtinagar, Lucknow on 8th March, along with her husband and one and a half year old son. She had shown no symptoms of illness and spent the days after her return catching up with the family. It was only when on March 12, that she decided to go for what the family claim a ‘voluntary’ check-up at KGMC and tested positive for the COVID -19 virus that all hell broke loose. Her son and husband tested negative.

Acting quickly the health department hospitalized her, quarantined the husband and child and prepared a list of all those whom she had come in contact with. A list of 12 members, living in two separate houses were prepared for testing they asked to stay at home. sealed the house.

This same list was leaked to the press and went viral. Within minutes it found its way to various Whatsapp groups and family bombarded with phone calls pan India. They even had some people come and photograph their house from outside. Media people started calling us and news channels bombarded us with questions. We were being hounded like criminals.

There are several doctors among those quarantined and the family say that they are all for ensuring that the virus does not spread and so have fully cooperated with the health officials and also got their tests done and have imposed self imposed quarantine. But they sure are angry at the document leak that has put them in a tight situation.

“This is in total violation of our Fundamental Right to privacy, we sure will take legal action but only after the crisis gets over”, said one of the 12 relative who is a dentist on phone.

He said that while most of the calls ask for the symptoms, many who called presumed that they were infected too. He said that many times the overtones were one of the blame for bringing this virus

But they are very angry at the way the document with their full details were so carelessly leaked and have exposed them to public censorship.

“What wrong did we do? She is our relative, she came visiting us at a time when she had absolutely no idea about the fact that she was infected, she had passed the test for negative at the airport, , “ an aunt of the patient’s told Tehelka on phone “To hound us now as if we are criminals is absolutely unethical and unlawful and we will definitely take this up with the authorities, at the appropriate time, “ she said.

Meanwhile the CMO, Narendra Agarwal has ordered an inquiry into the leakage and said that those responsible for this leakage of the document, which he said was essentially meant for the collection of samples for testing of the family members who had come in the contact of the patient and for taking other precautionary measures.