In what seemed to be a muddle-up by authorities testing foreign returnees for COVID-19, has now flared up and caused significant problems in the last week for 39-year-old seafarer and his wife.
On the 22nd of May 2020, this second engineer in the Merchant Navy was tested while quarantining after his return to India from the USA. The test was concluded negatively. Problems arose when he was ordered by the Director-General Shipping to procure a new certificate of testing to allow him to sail to Sri Lanka on his next job.
Having sampled at a private clinic at Mohali, it was sent to a private lab in Chandigarh that, declared him positive. Unsure of how he could have contracted it while in home isolation, the couple decided to get another test at a government facility to confirm. The issue escalated at Panchkula civil Hospital when they were denied a re-test as it wasn’t the protocol.
PGIMER (Post Graduate Institute of medical education and research) thankfully understood his concerns and tested him, which ultimately resulted as ‘negative’ for COVID-19.
This came as neither good nor bad news as by now, he has missed his date of reporting to sail, missing the flight on 26th June 2020, having being caught in confusion. The expiration of his certificate comes with its set of bad news as now he isn’t sure when he can receive special dispensation by the DG shipping office to be able to get into waters again.
Added to this, the couples have complained about disrespect and breach of privacy, stating that the police officials accessed call and location data when they were tested positive (inaccurately). The officials even contacted everyone the couple had interacted within the short while and alerted them about the test results. It is also alleged that private information like names and addresses were given out and circulated. All of this was done without their knowledge or consent.
The ensuing chaos accelerated with all the calls they received to enquire about their health. The upset wife and seafarer continue to lead their lives, but not without a share of considerable scrutiny by the sector, authorities and Arogya Setu App still marking him positive.
Pointing out the lack of sensitivity and organization, the couples question why there hasn’t been any action taken against the private lab, with nil solutions to their problems.