Kolkata: Domestic help from the city’s south suburban areas and the adjoining district (South 24 Parganas) have come under civic lens after a significant spurt in Covid-19 cases in several south Kolkata neighbourhoods.
According to a study conducted by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s Covid-19 prevention squad, the recent spurt in large areas of Ballygunge, Elgin Road, Jadavpur, Baghajatin, Garia and Patuli had much to do with the influx of domestic help from southern suburbs after resumption of local train services.
“We have reasons to believe that a section of domestic help has become active carriers of the virus after coming in close contact with asymptomatic positive patients in trains, stations and later in the markets where often sent to shop,” said a KMC health department official.
This sudden spike has compelled the civic authorities to declare fresh containment zones in Ballygunge, Elgin Road and Patuli (now in green zone). “We have declared three containment zones in parts of south Kolkata and its suburbs in the past one week after detection of several cases in apartment buildings and high-rises. Several of these cases are from servant quarters. We are keeping a close eye on domestic help and will need to bring them under Covid-19 tests in large numbers,” a KMC official said.
According to a KMC health department official, the task of identifying and bringing a section of domestic help under mandatory tests was proving to be difficult since a majority of them who have been tested positive were asymptomatic. Others who are testing positive are returning to their villages, making contact tracing a near impossible task.
KMC and police sources said though they were still gathering conclusive evidence, linking the fresh spike in cases after the pujas to the resumption of local train services, the fact that in the past 10 days saw several maid servants testing positive — even from within the containment zones — have made the civic body plan more rapid antigen tests. At the Patuli testing facility, the civic officials admitted that over 100 domestic help and vegetable vendors were tested in three weeks. “KMC is now maintaining a separate data in this context, attaching particular importance to Garia, Baghajatin, Jadavpur, Dhakuria and Ballygunge stations,” claimed sources. “The numbers are getting tagged on to Kolkata but we are unable to carry out follow-up testing as they are returning from here,” said a police officer from the south suburban division.
But it is not that the civic body alone which is planning preventive steps. Several households across Dhakuria, Jadavpur, Purba Jadavpur and Mukundapur are testing their full-time maids before accepting them back in the household. Most of these domestic help hail from the interiors of South 24 Parganas and are slowly returning back to their jobs after resumption of train services, said a police officer.
Take the example of senior citizens Amiya Kumar Pal and Kalyani Pal of Jadavpur. “We have two full time maids. Both of them had taken leave after lockdown for three weeks and they returned to their villages. They returned to our second flat at Jadavpur where we kept them in isolation for three days. On the third morning, we got both of them tested from a private lab. Both tested positive. We arranged for ambulances but their family insisted on their return. They told us that both are placed in safe homes but we have not heard much from them ever since,” said Amiya.