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News18 » India
5-min read

'Made to Feel Like a Criminal': Delhi's 1st Covid-19 Patient Bombarded With Hate Messages, Silly Advice

The 45-year-old businessman said his photograph and phone number were shared irresponsibly across social media platforms immediately after the news of him being tested positive broke on March 1.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan | News18.com@Rounak_T

Updated:March 20, 2020, 4:38 PM IST
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'Made to Feel Like a Criminal': Delhi's 1st Covid-19 Patient Bombarded With Hate Messages, Silly Advice
People wearing masks walk outside a special ward for possible COVID-19 patients at a hospital. (AP Photo)

New Delhi: It has been six days since Delhi's first COVID-19 patient was cured. He has now been advised to be in home quarantine for two weeks. However, the New Delhi-based businessman's recovery is marred with uninformed advices and hate messages.

The 45-year-old, who manufactures technical textiles used in footwear, told News18 that his photograph and phone number were shared irresponsibly across social media platforms immediately after the news of him being tested positive broke on March 1. The splash had made his family members edgy as well.

"It was sad to see my photograph and telephone number being spread on social media. I started receiving phone calls and hate messages from unknown numbers while I was admitted in the hospital. I was made into a criminal," he said.

"I was made to feel as if I went to Italy solely for the purpose of contracting this illness," he added.

Narrating one such incident that happened when he was in the second week of his treatment, the man said he received a call from an unknown woman who began by asking, "Are you the coronavirus patient?"

"I said, ‘no I am not’. In her reply, she abused me and hung up. The day I am out of home quarantine, I will first visit a temple and then call back on this number to talk to this lady," he said.

The insensitive remarks did not stop even after the news of him being cured. A few days earlier, he received another phone call from an acquaintance who told him he would have to get rid of 25 to 30 per cent of his lungs in order to fully recover.

"I have received so many messages on WhatsApp that happen to be rumours and are completely baseless. A lot of people want to know if I have a permanent damage in my body. And these are not uneducated people. These are well-established professionals who are asking me such questions," said the man who is a resident of East Delhi.

A father of two, the 45-year-old businessman had reached Italy from Delhi on February 16 for a leather exhibition in Milan. On February 21, he had travelled to Budapest. Three days later he took a flight from Vienna back to Delhi.

"On the night of 25 February I had slight fever. I thought it may be due to jetlag. I took a Paracetamol and it subsided. But I decided to visit a doctor the next morning," he said.

The physician prescribed him regular medicines for cough and told him it was nothing serious.

Two days later was his son's birthday and he decided to host a party at Delhi's Hyatt Regency. By this time, he was no more running temperature.

"There are rumours doing the rounds that I partied with 40-50 people in the hotel but that is false. There were only 11 people, out of whom five were from my home itself, including me," he stated.

On the evening of February 28, after he returned from the party he again had fever.

"On the morning of February 29, my wife and I went to the same physician again and said we want to get tested for coronavirus. I had earlier told him I had returned from Italy. He immediately referred me to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital," the businessman said.

At the hospital, he was made to fill a form stating symptoms. He marked fever.

"They were extremely prepared for it and immediately told me I will have to stay back in the hospital. They said we will keep you here till we have your reports. They took swabs from my nose and throat. It was completely painless. It takes not more than 10 seconds. The testing facilities were absolutely up to the mark," he said.

His reports arrived at around 7:30 pm on March 1. The authorities came to know that Delhi now has its first coronavirus patient. However, they did not share that information with him immediately.

"It was a very good step. It would have been very difficult for me to spend the entire night with that knowledge," he said.

After the confirmation, he was immediately shifted to an isolation ward in Safdarjung Hospital.

"The isolation ward was very neat and clean with state of the art infrastructure. You can compare it to any of the top hospitals in Delhi. It was a big room with a bathroom inside. It also had a big window," he recalled.

Next morning, a team of four doctors arrived and the news was broken to him.

"They told me that I am coronavirus positive but I need not worry at all as it is like any other cold and cough. It may take a day or two extra but they said they will send me home hale and hearty. A major chunk of my worry was immediately relieved to see doctors being so helpful and caring towards me," he said.

The Delhi businessman immediately called up his wife to inform her of his test results. "Initially, they were very scared but put up a brave face and told me not to worry and that I'll be back in no time. I was particularly concerned about my children," he said.

Within two to three hours, everyone he had came in contact with after his visit to Italy was tested.

"The promptness and preparedness was commendable. The health minister of the country did a video conference call with me during the 14-day period and enquired about my health," he said.

The man said a doctor used to visit him three times a day. The nursing staff recorded parametric details four times a day. His ward was cleaned at least two times a day. He was allowed to keep his phone, which he used to video call his family members back home when he was in Safdarjung Hospital for 14 days.

He returned home on March 14, completely cured.

"Right now I am confined to my bedroom. The door is always closed. I spend my days watching Netflix. I received a lot of phone calls from my well-wishers as well. I am planning to start working from home," he said.

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