Barricades leave patients, families traumatised

Corporation blocks individual flats and houses with tin sheets, cutting off access to residents

June 25, 2020 11:36 pm | Updated June 26, 2020 01:33 pm IST

Tin sheets placed at the entrance of a house of a COVID-19 patient in Chennai.

Tin sheets placed at the entrance of a house of a COVID-19 patient in Chennai.

Lack of a standard protocol on containment measures against a house or an individual flat is causing hardship to COVID-19 patients and family members. In some cases, individual flats have been shut, leaving the residents without access to the outside world.

While the Greater Chennai Corporation has reduced the number of containment zones despite the rising number of positive cases, blocking entry to houses and flats with tin sheets has not served any purpose. Instead, it has reduced the safety of those inside, said a person affected by this “containment” measure.

Raghunath Vijayaraghavan, a resident of Venus Colony in Alwarpet, tested positive for COVID-19. Soon, the civic workers shut the entrance to his flat in a posh apartment complex with tin sheets, leaving a small opening. Mr. Vijayaraghavan said although he had no symptoms, he and his family remained inside the house. He said the metal sheets nailed to his front door promoted stigma about COVID-19 positive people, and could prove to be dangerous in case of a fire. Even in case of a medical emergency, considerable time would be lost in removing the sheets before moving the patient to hospital, he added.

Arbitrary use

S. Kumararaja, a resident welfare activist of Velachery, said blocking of houses caused mental agony and physical hardship to COVID-19 patients. The civic body had delegated the power to take containment measures to the respective zonal officials. In the absence of a protocol, it led to arbitrary use of tin sheets, causing harm to residents, besides promoting stigma against the affected family.

It was after several appeals to the civic body that such sheets were removed from a flat on Haddows Road and on College Lane. Many flats in high-rise buildings have been sealed in several parts of the city, increasing the risk in case of a fire, rue the residents.

According to estimates, more than 30% of the houses were located in buildings that required advanced fire safety provisions as per urban planning regulations. However, the civic body sealed many flats leading to the risk of fire during 14 days of quarantine. Residents whose flats were sealed in the past few days said the doors were barricaded, preventing entry and exit for 14 days.

After studying the negative impact of barricades in high-rise buildings, officials were now advising workers not to barricade flats in such buildings.

“Officers have advised workers not to barricade flats in high-rise buildings. We have erected flex boards with mobile numbers of officers and volunteers to report violation of quarantine,” said Corporation South Region Deputy Commissioner Alby John Varghese.

A senior official of Kodambakkam zone said previously when the pandemic started, the entire street was barricaded even if there was only one positive case.

However, over the days, the stringent measures had been diluted and today individual houses and the particular flats are barricaded based on the history of the patient and to prevent harassment from neighbours.

Volunteers assigned

He said steps were being taken to post volunteers to help the affected families in getting groceries and medicines.

Corporation Commissioner G. Prakash said residents in more than 1.2 lakh houses had been placed under quarantine. Even as these numbers were expected to rise in the next few weeks, residents urge the civic body to ensure that regulations for containment zones were spelt out clearly, leaving no room for varying interpretations by various officials.

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