New Delhi: Hours after a 34-year-old jawan in Leh tested positive for coronavirus, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday asked the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to discourage its personnel from taking leaves.
Sources told CNN-News18 the CAPF has started taking more steps to protect its troops from COVID-19 that has sof ar claimed three lives in India. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has cancelled all non-emergency leaves and the Border Security Force (BSF) is "discouraging personnel from going on leave".
"The worry is that if a personnel comes back from leave with the infection, all his colleagues living in the same campus/accommodation are also at risk," a top BSF official told CNN-News18.
An ITBP advisory on coronavirus, titled ‘Roles and Responsibilities for occupational health and safety of force personnel’, says, "All non-emergency kind of leaves may be cancelled forthwith. This will cut down travel risk as well."
The advisory asks personnel to "avoid international or domestic air, bus or train travel for at least one month. Long-distance travel is biggest cause of spread”.
The CRPF, as per officials, is enforcing screening of every personnel who is coming back from leave. But the three lakh-plus force is still at risk as a returned soldier can show symptoms for upto 14 days of coming back from leave.
The CRPF got its first scare when one of its constables posted in Chhattisgarh returned from leave and showed symptoms of the deadly virus. “He returned from Kottayam in Kerala and said his mother was admitted in a hospital where three to four coronavirus-infected patients were also admitted. His samples were sent to AIIMS in Raipur," a CRPF official said. The constable has tested negative, much to the relief of the force.
Concerns in the paramilitary heightened after it was established that the jawan contracted coronavirus from his father while on leave. The jawan, as per a statement issued by the army, was on casual leave from February 25 to March 1. His father returned from Iran on February 27 and was quarantined two days later. The father tested positive for COVID-19 on March 6 and the soldier tested positive 10 days later.
The armed forces have cancelled all recruitment drives, passing out parades and raising days to enforce social distancing. "Even the defence minister’s itinerary has undergone a drastic change. March was a packed calendar earlier but now all his engagements have been cancelled," a source close to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told CNN-News18.
CRPF Director General AP Maheshwari said the force has created spaces within the camps to test, review and quarantine any personnel returning from leave/travel. "The person will first report at battalion headquarters and only after proper tests are carried out will he be allowed to resume duty," he said. "The force has also issued a similar advisory to its 30 personnel posted in Baghdad for perimeter security of the Indian Embassy there."