The IIT boys hostel at Ponda doubles as an impressive Covid-19 center; it can accommodate 500 coronavirus patients but the servicing is poor and queues can be tiresome; that’s an angry Deepa tai (Mayenkar, of Dempobhat), Manisha’s mother; elsewhere Manisha and her hubby Sanjay Naik. All was not well but it ended well and Manisha is back on her feet wondering if the covid scare is more unreal than real? She is still not sure if she is negative, asymptomatic or positive!
By Tara Narayan
— Asks one Covid-19 patient Manisha Naik of Marcel
THE story of Covid-19 patients positive, asymptomatic, negative or mild, moderate and severe is getting curiouser and curiouser. Listen to this account by my friend and one-time neighbor Manisha Naik (nee Mayenkar). In her mid-30s Manisha has just returned after spending 10 days at a Covid Centre at Ponda to visit her mother Deepatai (Mayenkar) at Dempobhat, Tonca, Panaji.
It was a compulsory stay at the ear-marked Covid-19 IIT hostel at Ponda. How was it? I asked her, are you okay now, did they give you a discharge certificate? “Yes,” Manisha smiled ruefully as she traced her stint with the coronavirus scare. “I was at the IIT Hostel where about 500 patients were in quarantine, in the big rooms men were on one side, women on the other side. But some of us were in double rooms…I was put in a double room with another woman patient.”
I tell her we were all worried at Dempobhat from where she hails, when on July 21 we heard that she had tested Covid-19 positive and an ambulance had come late in the evening to take her to the Covid-19 Centre in Ponda. The word spread and the very next day the area was put into place as a micro containment zone for her mother Deepatai’s family of 17 members along with Nepali migrants staying here in the background along with neighbors.
The general story making the rounds was if Manisha knew she was sick in her in-laws place at Marcel why did she come on a visit to her mother’s place at Dempobhat? So bitched the fear-mongering local grapevine! Deepatai is a grand matriarch of all she surveys and commands respect hereabouts. It is understandable that she was worried about Manisha being packed off to the Covid-19 center late evening of July 21 and feared that her daughter’s infection may have spread to the rest of immediate family of two sons, daughters-in-law, aunt, etc. Plus, the Nepali workers.
True, the family had gone off to the Primary Health Centre at Panaji to do the swab test; some wanted to do the test, many didn’t for fear of being infected at the center itself if they were not already infected! The police had come and set up barricades for the area had come into micro containment for the next 14 plus, plus days. The tests took a week to come but Deepatai’s family tested negative, all of them. There was such a huge sigh of relief all around.
All sealed homes received sarkari gifts courtesy the local mamladar — milk, bread, rations, vegetables of onions, potatoes, ladies finger…rice, etc. Each day passed with anxiety. Some kept asking how is Manisha at the Ponda Covid-19 center? An angry Deepatai replied, “We can’t visit her. I can only talk on the phone and she keeps saying she is okay, they are only giving her Combiflame and vitamins…don’t worry, she is fine.” Everything else was not worth writing home about.
Is that true? I asked the wan looking and considerably pulled down Manisha when she returned to visit her mother after her quarantine, she grimaced, “Yes, nothing seemed to be wrong with me and I kept asking to let me go home to my in-laws at Marcel but … but doctor said not yet. We had to queue up for tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner…bread or rice or some curry. After a day or two I asked my sister-in-law to get me some tiffin food from home!”
There must have been about 500 people there at the hostel and with five bathroom toilets it was utterly difficult, “We were about 50 women and we begged for two toilets to be reserved for only women but the authorities refused.” Manisha endorsed that there was not much treatment as such except as her mother had told me, patients were given Combiflame, vitamin B and C tablets. Something happened to frighten her though, “On night at about midnight the woman sharing room with me complained of high fever and I quickly went out of the room to get her help. A nurse on duty gave me a number to call up and the person told me to pack up the woman’s clothes in a plastic bag and bring her down, an ambulance is coming to take her to ESI hospital in Margao…”
Manisha helped the terribly ill woman to make it to the ambulance with her bag and afterwards back in the room she was sweating and wiped herself down with hot water, “We had hot water in a kettle which we could help ourselves to.” Later they leaned the woman had died at the hospital and it was an eerie, awful moment to think about the incident. When she mentioned the incidentto her mother about it the next day the family wanted to leave the place immediately!
HOW did it all start, anyway? I asked. She said it all began when her husband Sanjay said “Let’s go do the Covid-19 swab test at the local hospital in Ponda…he tested negative, I tested positive! I didn’t take it seriously and came to my mother’s place at Dempobhat for some work. I think it’s some tambdi bhaji I’d eaten which led to my stomach collapse…but I got fever later in the evening and panicked. What if it was this coronavirus, I was scared for my mother and family and told my brother to call the emergency number. At first they asked me to go to the center in my own car and only when I said I could not do so they sent the ambulance to come and get me…”
The ambulance deposited her at the Covid-19 IIT hostel at Ponda. The next morning she was feeling much better and thought there was nothing wrong with her. In the meantime she learned her mother’s area at Dempobhat was all sealed for containment and everybody was doing or refusing to do the test, anyway results took their own sweet time to be notified to person concerned on phone. While at the center she got a call from local Dempobhat area councilor Sheetal Naik who told not to worry and if there was anything she needed, please call her. The results took almost a week to come and it was a most stressed and dragged out time. Even after the results the containment continued up to more than 14 days at her mother’s place, God alone knows why…to be very safe presumably. Who knows how the minds of the authorities work?
AND after ten days at the Covid-19 center Manisha too got her discharge certificate and was told she could go home, but something niggled her conscience, “While all other discharge certificates had ‘Negative’ on them, on mine they insisted on putting ‘Positive’…don’t know why!” There is something about many patients being asymptomatic but it’s confusing. It seems only asymptomatic patients are kept in the covid centres.
While reading one of the Marathi newspapers she learned that for every patient at a Covid-19 center the government is getting Rs1.5 lakh from someone abroad, “You go and find out for me if this is true. Maybe this Covid-19 is also some scam!”
IT is unlikely that any organisation at the National level or the International level would pay any politicians or the government Rs 1.5 lakh per patient. Though a lot of funding is being received by the Goa government from the Centre and possibly from the World Health Organisation. The state government is also using the Central government funds that had been set aside for the rehabilitation of areas damaged by mining.
It is possible that Manisha misunderstood what she read in the Marathi paper she quoted for her allegation that “the government is getting Rs 1.5 lakh from someone abroad.”
There is definitely a big scam in the expenditure being incurred on the management of Covid-19. A section of the press has reported on Thursday that the State government is purchasing consumables at exorbitant prices much above market rate and particularly the PPEs are expensive. All the medical personnel incharge of the Covid-19 care centres have to wear the surgical mask and the PPEs. With 500 patients at the IIT hostel in Ponda where Manisha was lodged, the cost could be well above Rs 1.5 lakh! Whether there is a big scam or not Manisha’s claim must be investigated.
Did she have to pay for anything during her ten-10 stay at the Ponda IIT Hostel? No. And she is not sure if it was just a waste of time or not or even if she had Covid-19 or not. It was not a pleasant experience and she really thinks it was so much storm in a teacup of Covid-19. She wished people wouldn’t blame her mother for anything. For heaven’s sake, anyone can get Covid-19!
But the mystery should be solved. Why are so many folk being picked up and tucked away in the government’s Covid-19 centers regardless of whether they’re positive, negative or what is being asymptomatic all about? So many are only testing asymptomatic and they are also supposed to be dangerous? Difficult times for everybody around then, how much to believe and how much to dismiss as so much nonsense?