CRPF Limiting Quarantine To 5 Days Made Delhi Battalion a Hotspot
CRPF’s shocking mandate of 5-day quarantine for those returning from leave to join duty triggered a crisis.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is the worst hit with COVID-19 cases among the Central Armed Police Forces with as many as 142 positive cases reported so far – of which 135 cases are from a single unit, CRPF's 31st Battalion, presently based in Delhi.
So why have COVID-19 cases spiked in the 31st Battalion?
The Quint has accessed the minutes of a CRPF meeting held on 26 April in connection with COVID-19 cases. It was chaired by Director General CRPF, Dr A. P. Maheshwari, and attended by Zonal Additional Director Generals (ADGs), Inspector Generals (IGs) and Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs) of CRPF through video conferencing.
The minute reveal how the CRPF's 31st Battalion became a hotspot.
In this meeting, DG CRPF said, “laxity and lack of personal supervision by senior medical staff (of CRPF) lead to a sharp jump in the number of coronavirus positive cases.”
CRPF Medical Officer CUT 14 Day Quarantine to 5 Days
A Nursing Assistant of CRPF’s 31st Battalion, who returned from leave, was quarantined for only 10 days, in violation of the 14 day norm. Since his home was in Noida, adjacent to Delhi, the nursing assistant was asked to join the nearest unit which happened to be 31st Battalion. He has been identified as the source of the outbreak in the battalion. The reason for this major laxity, as stated in the minutes was the mandate released by Medical Directorate of CRPF in March, which stated that a 5 day quarantine is enough for paramedics returning from leave.
The minutes of the meeting do not clarify why CRPF officials issued a mandate which contradicts the universal norm of 14 days quarantine.
However, the matter doesn’t end here.
The nursing assistant was tested for COVID-19 only after he started showing symptoms, some days after his release from quarantine, a CRPF source has told The Quint. But here again, norms were not followed. Had the nursing assistant been tested while in quarantine, several CRPF personnel would have been saved from infection. Unfortunately, by the time he tested positive, he had already infected several of his colleagues at the camp.
In addition, the minutes of the CRPF meeting quote the Director (Medical) of CRPF as saying, “the CRPF personnel kept in 31st Battalion barracks are more than the prescribed capacity which is in complete violation of social distancing norms." He also stated that an insufficient number of bathrooms in barracks increased the chances of COVID-19 infection.
The DIG Range of CRPF Delhi, who is responsible for all battalions in Delhi, in his defence, stated that confusion on number of quarantine days was created because of the five days quarantine mandate issued by the CRPF’s Medical Directorate for suspected COVID 19 cases.
Another senior CRPF official brought up a further point with the DG at the meeting. He mentioned a complaint received from a suspected COVID-19 colleague, who said that in some CRPF units, only fever tests are being done and no COVID-19 test is carried out on personnel.
An inquiry has been ordered by DG CRPF into these matters.
“Enquiry is under progress. It will be taken to its logical end at the earliest. We have taken the matter seriously and are doing our best not only to restore normalcy but prevent any recurrence. CRPF is constantly gearing up to face emerging challenges of Covid during hotspot policing or security.Moses Dhinakaran, spokesperson, CRPF
CRPF is Short of Medical Equipment and Trained Staff
On one hand where the number of COVID-19 positive cases are shooting up everyday, the CRPF is also struggling with a shortage of trained CRPF medical staff to treat their own men.
A senior CRPF officer pointed out in the meeting that, “Sufficient (medical) equipment is not available for (CRPF’s) COVID-19 centres.” He added, “they do not have trained staff to handle ventilators, are required in severe positive cases, hence DG should revisit the idea of procuring ventilators.”
On this point, DG CRPF said that existing CRPF doctors should be trained to handle ventilators. A temporary suggestion made in the meeting was to approach the Indo-Tibetan Border Police’s (ITBP) COVID-19 hospital in Noida for the treatment of CRPF personnel.
The minutes of the meeting held on 26 April exposes senior CRPF officials. Their mistakes led to an outbreak within the force at a time when CRPF personnel are urgently needed on COVID-19 related duties.
Apart from CRPF, 66 personnel of Border Security Forces (BSF), 13 personnel of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), 5 personnel of ITBP and 11 personnel of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have tested positive for coronavirus till now.
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