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Mumbai coronavirus outbreak: Untraceable and missing COVID-19 patients due to wrong contact details compound BMC’s miseries

The authorities at the BMC are facing an uphill task of identifying and tracing coronavirus patients who provide wrong mobile phone numbers and incorrect addresses during the testing or the errors made by the testing labs while entering the details

Overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus cases emerging in the city as the total count touches 21,000-mark, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is plagued with another compounding problem- untraceable and missing COVID-19 patients.

The authorities at the BMC are facing an uphill task of identifying and tracing coronavirus patients who provide wrong mobile phone numbers and incorrect addresses during the testing or the errors made by the testing labs while entering the details. At any given time, there are more than 100 coronavirus patients in the city who are untraceable or have gone missing, said Additional Commissioner Suresh Kakani.

“There are several reasons why this happens. One of the most prominent reasons being wrong entry of details of the patients. However, we have other ways to identify and track such persons. We sift through the property card records or voter cards to trace such people. On Monday, we found out that labs in Bandra tested patients and mentioned their addresses as Bandra East. It becomes difficult then to track the victim then,” Kakani said.

BMC officers have now sought help from the Unique Identification Authority of India to get the addresses of the missing patients from their Aadhaar data. However, they are yet to receive access from UIDAI. The officials claim that most of those who are untraceable are those who had tested in private laboratories.

Fear of stigmatisation and isolation causing people to go missing

According to the Joint Commissioner B R Marathe of Chembur, Kurla, Mankhurd area, the fear resonating in the minds of people about COVID-19 is prompting them to provide incorrect addresses and phone numbers. He added that the patients who are tested by private laboratories are presented with the results by 3 PM while the list is sent to the civic head office by night and comes to the ward level by next morning, providing ample time to people fearing isolation to plan their escape.

“When these positive people go missing and move around the city, they pose a greater danger to society by wantonly spreading the infection. In some cases, BMC uses CCTV footages of the laboratories to identify and track down the miscreants,” he added.

Twelve coronavirus patients have gone missing from Vikhroli’s N ward. CCTV footages of the laboratories where they had tested are being examined to locate them. In Andheri East, 27 COVID-19 patients have gone untraceable while in Dharavi, whereabouts of 29 patients affected by coronavirus remain unknown. Authorities in Bhandup are scrambling to locate 31 such missing persons who had tested positive for coronavirus.

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