Fear infused by stigma, coupled with official apathy, has forced more than 4,000 COVID-19 positive patients in the city, who are under home quarantine, to struggle even for food as they are not allowed to venture out of their homes.
Anandh lives with his wife, who tested negative. Despite this, she could not go to shops owing to the opposition from neighbours. Anandh expressed that he and his wife do not have any friends or relatives in the city and they are left to fend for themselves.
"As per the instruction, I am staying in a separate room. When my wife tried to go to the shop, our neighbours started a fight. Some of them complained to Chennai Corporation officials," he added.
Unlike most patients under home quarantine, Anandh got lucky as a civic body assistant engineer approached the couple and assigned a Corporation worker to help them get food items. The assistant engineer shared the worker's phone number and he visits once every two days.
When contacted Rajesh, the assistant engineer who helped the couple, said that even though there is no instruction from the higher official, he is doing it to prevent the patients from coming out.
"Some volunteers are not ready to serve them due to fear. So, I requested the workers deployed in my division to help the patients. Some division-level officials across the city are helping the affected persons on their own interest," he added.
While Anandh and his wife managed to elicit help from an assistant engineer, Nagarajan and his family could not find any help from the civic body. Nagarajan, his wife and son tested positive on the same day. Nagarajan was in a government hospital for four days as he showed symptoms. "After four days, we were sent home. We have some friends in the city and they helped me buy food items. Even after we completed 14-day isolation, we could not go out due to the stigma," he added.
According to Chennai Corporation data, there are 8,396 active cases in the city, of which more than 50 per cent of infected persons are under home quarantine. When contacted, Chennai Corporation Commissioner G Prakash and deputy Commissioner (health) Madhusudan Reddy about civic body's measures to address the issue, they refused to comment.