Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: Union Minister V Muraleedharan on Thursday tweeted to say that he has tested negative for the novel coronavirus.
"Last Saturday I had visited the research division of a medical tnstitute, whose hospital later reported a #COVID19 +ve case. As a measure of abundant precaution I am in home quarantine since then. Have tested negative for #COVID19. No to panic! Yes to precaution! #IndiaFightsCorona"
The minister of state for external affairs had visited the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMT) in Thiruvananthapuram on March 14. Muraleedharan had then placed himself in self-quarantine after a doctor there tested positive for the coronavirus on returning from Spain.
Sources said Muraleedharan, a senior BJP leader from Kerala, opted for self-isolation at his Delhi residence as a precautionary measure.
However, SCTIMT director Dr Asha Kishore said reports the minister had come in contact with the doctor, who tested positive for the coronavirus, were "completely wrong".
The infected doctor, who is from the radiology department, had no symptoms and was cleared by the coronavirus cell. He was placed under home quarantine from March 10 or March 11 onwards, she told PTI.
The meeting with the minister was on March 14. Only four officials met him and none of them had any contact with the doctor who tested positive, the SCTIMT director said.
"The minister came to a different building and at a different time, and only four people met him, and it was a holiday, and none of them had contact with the patient. This is all false news," she said.
"We have directly spoken to the minister and told him, and he knows. He has not gone to the hospital. The affected doctor was not diagnosed at that time and was under home quarantine," Kishore said.
Asked if the minister had sought any explanation from the institute, the director replied in the negative.
"We had informed the minister immediately when the patient was diagnosed as positive. The minister had no contact at all. He does not fall under any definition of contact. That was informed to him also," Kishore said.
At least 76 employees of the institute, including 20 to 25 doctors who were in direct contact with the affected doctor, have been placed under isolation.
The doctor is presently under observation at the isolation ward of the general hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.
The deputy director of the institute,who had been to Spain on a personal visit, and had returned to the state on February 26, has also been quarantined following the Centre's notification of March 16, as per which those returning from Covid-19 hit nations should be put under 28 days isolation, institute sources said.
Though there is no shut down at the institute, only emergency surgeries are being held. The radiology department has been disinfected according to protocol.
The doctor, who returned from Spain on March 1, came to the hospital the next day wearing gloves and a mask.
He reported to the institute's infection control team, who in turn informed DISHA, comprising trained social workers and counsellors, who answer questions about Covid-19 (coronavirus disease), was informed, the sources said.
Since Spain had not then been brought under the high-risk category and the doctor did not have any symptoms, he was asked by DISHA to wait for five more days and come to the institute.
The doctor came to the hospital on March 10 and there was indirect contact with two patients at the radiology department, the sources said on Monday.
On March 11, after Spain was declared a high-risk area, the doctor was asked by the medical superintendent to go on
He developed symptoms on March 13 and tested positive for the virus. The doctor did not go for any surgery, OP or cathlab procedure while at the hospital, the sources said.
SCTIMST, an institution of national importance under the Department of Science and Technology, has the status of a university and offers research and training facilities.
It has three wings- a tertiary referral super specialty hospital, a biomedical technology wing and the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies.
(With inputs from PTI)