No soaps, no medicines, no segregation: 271 people cramped in Kathua quarantine

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 3/26/2020 12:16:31 AM

Students narrate nightmarish experience, question if govt is not going for Covid-19 tests what is the point of this quarantine

JAMMU, Mar 25: No beds but floor mattresses and blankets. 15-20 people huddled in one room. Shared toilet facilities which are not clean. No soaps or disinfectants. No sanitation. No sanitary napkins for women. No medication. And, not even food.
This was the harrowing experience of about 50 people, mostly students of Kashmiri origin, who entered Jammu and Kashmir by road via Lakhanpur late last night and were shoved into quarantine facility at the newly constructed building of the Jammu University's South campus in Janglote, Kathua.
271 people have been quarantined here, Deputy Commissioner, Kathua, O P Bhagat confirmed.
“It is a living nightmare,” said a student among them, speaking to Kashmir Times on phone. She arrived here last night along with 8 others in a cab from Amritsar after their flight (Delhi to Srinagar via Amritsar) was cancelled at Amritsar. “We had nowhere to go and thought of proceeding Srinagar by road.”
“There were several other private cars and trucks on road when we entered Jammu and Kashmir via Lakhanpur. In Kathua, we were stopped and we underwent thermal scanning test and the vehicles were sanitised,” she said, adding that after that the Jammu and Kashmir Police diverted our cars to an unknown route and officers told them that they would have to take an alternate route to Jammu.
Instead, they were taken to the Janglote quarantine. “It was about 11.30 PM when we reached. We were provided mattresses, cushion and a blanket each but nothing else,” she said.
We were offered food that appeared stale and probably left-overs. “Hundreds of people are already quarantined here in another building which is far more congested than ours,” she told KTNS. She added that breakfast was given to them 12 hours later, only after they protested. Next meal was provided by the authorities around 8.15 PM today after the delayed breakfast.
The bigger worry of these students, however, is that the quarantine facilities are inadequate. “Nothing like isolation exists. There are some people who are coughing and sneezing but have not been given masks or kept in a separate room,” one of the students, who preferred anonymity, said and added that “even the cancer patients and diabetics have not been segregated despite the fact that they are more vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of them in the main building were protesting this.”
The men and women have been quarantined in the same rooms which basically serve as classrooms. “You can see chairs and desks pushed to a side,” they said.
The other major concern is that no medicines are available. One of those quarantined is a hyper tension patient but as yet no medicine has been provided to her. Yesterday, when the SSP Kathua visited there, she requested him for her medicines but he was rude and said that “if she was so ill, she will be admitted in the hospital where the conditions are much worse,” said one of them. “These were shockingly his words,” she said.
“There is running water in the toilets but no soaps and disinfectants have been supplied,” they said, adding that many of them were travelling by air and were not carrying these. The women complained that there were no sanitary napkins provided. “There’s absolute chaos here and it seems like Nazi cam like conditions,” they said. “We have no idea how long we will be kept like this where we are more vulnerable to the pandemic and other diseases. If they are not going to conduct Covid-19 tests, then this whole quarantine business is pointless,” one of those quarantined said.
Deputy Commissioner Kathua, O P Bhagat, however, rubbished these allegations saying, “most of them are distortions or lies.”
When questioned about the denial of basic facilities and food, he said that “everything has been given” and only elaborated about “mattresses, blankets and cushions.” This had already been mentioned by the students. He however, made no specific mention of food and parried questions about availability of soaps and disinfectants.
“We are doing what we can but it is not easy to manage hundreds of people. Everything cannot be done by the government. People should understand and co-operate with us,” he averred.
To the queries about lack of medicines and why people with cold and cough had not been isolated and why cancer and diabetic patients, who experts say are more vulnerable, have not been offered specialised care, Bhagat said that “Generic medicines are there but specialized medicines will take some time. We sent a medical team to the facility today to make a list of what people need and these will also be provided.”
To a query why this has not been done when over 200 people have been placed at the quarantine facility three days ago, he amusingly said, “It hasn’t been three days. They were brought only on March 23.” No amount of arguing that being March 25, this worked out to three days, seemed to convince him. No explanation was given as to why this had not been done earlier.
Shockingly, the students at the quarantine rebuffed even these claims. “The medical team is non-existent,” one of them said and added, “Late evening one officer came to say that only four generic medicines like paracetamol and pain-killers are available. In fact, there is no one present here to listen to our complaints. No helpline numbers have been given. The only one in-charge here is the person sitting at the gate who noted our names and most of the time he is missing.”
“What kind of isolation is this? Everybody is freely roaming around in the campus? But we cannot go out. It seems we have been dumped here," she said.

 

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