Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said an ambulance driver who tested positive for COVID-19 was allowed to leave for Mumbai as he was asymptomatic, drawing flak from netizens on his social media accounts.
On Saturday night, Sarma said on Facebook and Twitter that three persons, including the ambulance driver who drove them to Jorhat district from Mumbai, tested positive and the driver was sent back to Mumbai.
"Alert ~ 3 people, incl an Ambulance Driver from Mumbai who drove the 2, test #COVID19 + in Jorhat. Driver sent back to Mumbai. 2 are at JMCH since their arrival in Jorhat," he tweeted.
Alert ~ 3 people, incl an Ambulance Driver from Mumbai who drove the 2, test #COVID19 + in Jorhat. Driver sent back to Mumbai. 2 are at JMCH since their arrival in Jorhat.— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 9, 2020
↗️#COVID19 patients in Assam 62
↗️Active cases 27
Update10.20 pm/May 9#AssamCovidCount
This created a long stream of reactions by his followers on both the platforms, who said the step was "totally not justified" and asked why the driver was allowed to leave Assam as there is maximum possibility of him spreading the infection on his way back.
"Actually the driver left for Mumbai and we allowed him to go as he was asymptotic. Now on our request he has been stopped in Bihar for hospitalisation," Sarma said, defending the decision.
Julin Boruah, one of his followers on Facebook, said, "I am worried about the respected driver of the ambulance... He became the pride warrior of #Covid19... If he really send back then it's totally not justified on our state Government. Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma Dangoria please look into the matter with immediate effect. Our state should try to cure the pride warrior."
A user, named Urmee_D, on Twitter expressed surprise and asked whether the ambulance carrying two women had valid documents and whether these were properly checked at Sagalia and Srirampur -- the entry points into Assam.
"The ambulance entered Assam with proper permission to bring back one blood cancer patient from Jorhat who happens to be son of one of the +patient. We do not have Covid-19 testing facilities on our border," Sarma replied.
Jojneswar Sharma tweeted to the minister, "This incident cautions us to check health status of driver if he is hired in red zone such as Mumbai before they are allowed to undertake such journey; even ambulance could carry virus; in this case driver should not have been allowed to leave Jorhat till report was available."
Sarma said, "Then we will end up detaining thousands of truck drivers coming from different states to Assam."
Identifying himself as an orthopaedic surgeon, Ananta Saikia said, "Why was the driver sent back? He should have been treated here as he took all the risks to drive our brothers back home, please look into the matter sir, one or two cases don't make any difference, we're all prepared to face it."
"Sir, Why the driver sent back to Mumbai?? We could have given utmost care, treatment at Jorhat. We request you to provide him all support, assistance. Tcr of urself too," Madhurjya Protim Borah said to Sarma on Facebook.
One Twitter user said: "Please treat and take the best care of the driver here in Assam itself. He took all the risk and brought the ppl back to Assam. It is our moral responsibility to ensure best treatment are being provided to him."
Another said, "It was so inhumane to send the driver back, he is mentally and physically unfit to travel all the way back to Mumbai in this state of health. Please take necessary measures for the driver."
The total number of COVID-19 cases has gone up to 62 in the state, of which 34 have been discharged.
The state Health and Family Welfare Department said in its daily bulletin that two persons have died due to the COVID-19.