The 22-year-old resident of a south Kolkata high-rise complex who returned from London on March 13 and was carrying the Sars-Cov-2 virus allegedly roamed freely and visited his father’s shops before falling ill.
The youth tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, taking the total number of infected people in West Bengal to two. The 18-year-old son of a state home department officer tested positive earlier. He and his parents had been roaming freely after he returned from London. The bureaucrat even attended office at Nabanna, the state secretariat which houses the chief minister’s office.
Mamata Banerjee toughened her stand on Friday, saying the government would forcefully put foreign returnees in quarantine if they violated rules and did not stay in home isolation. To do this, she enforced the Epidemic Diseases Act.
The south Kolkata youth complained of fever and cough on March 16. By then, his two friends, who are residents of Chattisgarh and Punjab and returned from London on the same flight, had also tested positive, state health department officials said. The youth got admitted in hospital on March 17. His father has two sanitary ware shops on S P Mukherjee Road and Ishwar Ganguly Street in the densely populated Kalighat area of south Kolkata. The area is full of shops and the famous Kalighat temple is located close by.
Residents of S P Mukherjee Road and Ishwar Ganguly Street lodged a written petition with Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim and the Kalighat police station on Friday saying the youth and his father came to both the shops and interacted with people and the staff.
The residents demanded that the shops should be closed for the time being and disinfected and people who came in contact with the youth traced and sent for a medical test. “We, the local residents, are feeling scared,” the petition said.
“Till now we have quarantined 11 people, including the youth’s family, who were in close contact. Efforts are on to trace his co-passengers,” said director of health services Ajoy Chakraborty.
“We were forced to enforce the Epidemic Diseases Act on Friday. Those defying home isolation will be forcefully taken to government-run quarantine centres,” said the chief minister.
On Friday, two women, who recently returned from abroad, were forcefully quarantined by the Kolkata Police. They were loitering outside a housing campus in south Kolkata violating home isolation norms.
This was the first time the authorities used provisions in the West Bengal Epidemic Disease COVID-19 regulation 2020, which allows forceful quarantine of those who violate norms after returning from foreign countries.
In similar cases, three suspected COVID-19 patients who escaped from hospitals in Jalpaiguri and Birbhum districts were caught by the police and quarantined.
Since both Covid-19 patients in Bengal returning from abroad, the health department appealed to citizens who have returned from the UK, USA, Europe and the Gulf nations to remain in home isolation for 14 days.
Till Friday, more than 19,600 people were kept in home isolation while 29 were under observation in hospitals.
The chief minister also announced the creation of an emergency relief fund and requested people to donate.
“In view of the current crisis, 7.85 crore people will be given 5 kg rice and wheat every month for free,” she said. The state has a population of around nine crore.
Banerjee alleged that the state was not receiving support from the Centre as far as the supply of essential items were concerned.
Banerjee said state government employees would work on rotation to reduce exposure. Half of the required staff would be on duty at any point in time. She requested private companies to do the same.