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Confusion mars Coronavirus cases, deaths in Malegaon

A detailed statistics released by Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) Saturday April 18 talks about 04 Covid-19 related deaths in Malegaon

Sunday April 19, 2020 7:51 PM, Aleem Faizee, ummid.com

Malegaon Coronavirus Deaths

[Nashik SP (Rural) Arti Singh monitoring the lockdown in Malegaon.]

Malegaon: There is no report of Corona Virus Disease infection in Malegaon in the past 24 hours, a single line message circulated on social media Friday April 17 afternoon brought relief to panic-stricken Malegaon.

The relief however proved short-lived as only a couple of hours later reports emerged that as many as 14 new patients from the textile city have been tested positive for Corona Virus Disease (Covid-19). Among them were 02, including an octogenarian medical practitioner, who had died of the new virus.

Every death is tragic and painful. However, the death of the doctor reportedly due to the deadly disease shocked everyone as he was respected not only as a medical practitioner but also as a poet and laureate.

Malegaon mein aik Muslim doctor Corona virus se jaan bahaq (A Muslim doctor succumbed to Coronavirus in Malegaon), the headline of a prominent Mumbai Urdu daily, known for sensationalising reports and stories, screamed the next morning.

Many questions, no answer

But the question that everyone was asking was how the octogenarian who did not have any travel history and had stopped practicing long ago because of his old age could contract the deadly disease? Is the cause of his death really the Coronavirus? Isn’t it worrisome for the entire city that the source of his coronavirus infection if true is unknown?

The explanation on these queries by those at the helm of affairs of the local health department ended with many more such questions.

“From the symptoms when he breathed his last we suspected that the octogenarian “might have died” (emphasis added) due to Coronavirus”, Dr Kishor Dange, Medical Officer at Malegaon General Hospital, told ummid.com.

The doctor was taken to Malegaon General Hospital after his condition deteriorated Thursday and all private hospitals were shut-down because of the lockdown. He died at around 06 in the morning Friday.

When ummid.com spoke to Dr Sapana Thakare, Health Officer Malegaon, she also admitted that there is no report confirming that the doctor died due to Coronavirus.

“It is a suspected case of Covid-19 infection”, she said.

The family members of the doctor are also reluctant to believe that the octogenarian died due to Coronavirus.

“We have been told that he died because of the new virus. But, none of us have actually seen the report”, one of them said.

Not the first instance

This is not the first instance when the questions were raised about the transparency and accuracy in handling the Covid-19 pandemic by the civic and health officials of Malegaon.

On April 11, a 22-year-old woman from Malegaon, who had a long list of different ailments, died in Dhule. The family members of the diseased talking to ummid.com said, they were first told that she died due to the coronavirus and therefore the entire family members and neighbours in the family’s contacts were needed to be isolated and quarantined.

“Few hours later we were told that she did not die of Coronavirus. But, as a precautionary measure, her parents will be isolated and quarantined”, one of the family members who did not wish to be named said.

Actual Corona deaths in Malegaon still unknown

Reports from Malegaon General Hospital confirms only 01coronavirus death. “There is only 01 confirmed Coronavirus death in Malegaon. All others are suspected cases”, Dr Kishor Dange told ummid.com.

However, citing unnamed health departmentc sources and medical officers, local vernacular media is reporting 4, some even claiming 5, Coronavirus deaths in Malegaon. A detailed statistics released by Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) Saturday April 18, also talks about 04 Covid-19 related deaths in Malegaon, including that of a 55-year-old man who died on April 8, 2020.

Malegaon News Today

Dr Sapana Thakare, Health Officer Malegaon, however said except for the 01 all other cases are still to be confirmed.

“Malegaon has so far reported five "suspected" (emphasis added) coronavirus related deaths”, Dr Sapana Thakare told ummid.com and excused from providing more details.

Are Corona cases in Malegaon deliberately spiked?

Questions are also raised over the number of coronavirus positive cases reported with alarming pace from only one part of the textile city. A number of local residents, including some doctors, whom ummid.com spoke on phone, said they were “forcefully” admitted at the quarantine centres on the pretext that “they might have been in contact with some of the coronavirus positive patients”.

“I went into self-isolation at my home few days ago after the reports that one of my patients is tested positive for Coronavirus. I do not feel like having any of the Covid-19 symptoms. Still, I was taken to the quarantine centre and admitted there last night”, he told ummid.com on phone.

"In fact, I was better off and in a much better position to take care of myself while quarantined at home", he added.

Hungry, hence quarantined

Meanwhile, a story of a man is also widely shared wherein he said that he and his family members were starving due to the lockdown. Finding no means to feed his kin, he tried the “novel idea” to get the entire family quarantined.

“I had nothing left to feed my little kids. With no cash in hand to buy food, I started coughing, and coughing so loud and frequently, that my neighbours took note of it. The trick worked and now my entire family including me is at the quarantine centre. We have nothing to do with the disease. But, we are at least getting the food”, he said.

Ummid.com could not verify the stated account of the man. However, situation in many parts of Malegaon, which is in total lockdown since March 24 when CM Uddhav Thackeray announced curfew in the entire state, is really worrisome. With even vegetable vendors and milkmen being barred from entering the sealed areas of the city, a good number of people are struggling for their daily meals and nothing is ruled out under such a situation.

There is no denying that all precautionary steps are needed to contain the further spread of the Corona virus. At the same time, it is also required that these steps, should not add to the sufferings of the people, and to the fear and panic already rampant in the city.

It is hence requested to the administration, especially Dr Pankaj Ashiya, in-charge of the Emergency Centre established for the purpose, and Nashik District Collector and Chairman District Diasaster Management Authority Suraj Mandhare, to adopt more sympathetic approach while dealing the coronavirus outbreak.

It is also requested to them to speed up the clinical tests of those who are in quarantine at different centres, especially the doctors who are feeling uncomfortable and afraid of being further sick. Care should also be taken while releasing the data of the people infected by the deadly virus.

[The writer, Aleem Faizee, is Founder Editor of ummid.com and Chairman of Samara's Education and Welfare Association (SEWA) and Malegaon Industries and Manufacturers Association (MIMA). He can be contacted at aleem.faizee@gmail.com.]

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