DT Next’s interaction with two such families revealed how they have been ostracised by the society, especially in rural areas.
Officials admitted that cases seeking preliminary tests were piling up from across the State. Once found positive in the tests, their samples would be sent for final COVID viral test. That these persons have been isolated has not reduced the suspicion among the neighbours, who are avoiding any interaction with the families. As a result, with the breadwinner either in the hospital or in quarantine, these families are left without any social support.
A day before the lockdown, S Madasamy’s* 29-year-old son returned by flight from Delhi, where he is working. Heeding to government’s announcement, he informed the travel details to the Orathanadu block development officer. “He was picked up by the local health officials at 6.30 pm on April 2. He is yet to return and the villagers have started ostracising my family,” rued the 60-year-old.
Speaking to DT Next, his son said the officials initially said that he would be send back after a swab and blood tests. “But now they have kept me in a special ward at Thanjavur Medical College. There is no update on the test reports even after 48 hours. As I am don’t have high fever or cough, my sample is not a priority case,” he said.
When contacted, a senior nodal officer explained that the samples of only those with severe symptoms among the more than 80,000 quarantined persons are rushed for the mandatory viral tests within 24 hours.
“Otherwise, swab and blood samples are collected twice and tested as part of mass screening process. If both the results indicate viral load, the mandatory coronavirus test is done as per the standard operating procedure instructed by the Centre,” the official said.
At districts without testing facilities, even the preliminary tests would take up to four days.
“This is a new disease and we are fighting against a strange virus. We are improving the time taken,” the official added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami issued a statement urging the public to extend love and affection for those under treatment or in quarantine. “This is not the time for hate and communal debates,” he added.
* (name changed)