Coronavirus: No details on contact tracing in Telangana’s COVID-19 bulletin

Hyderabad: When the Union health ministry released updated information regarding the number of Corona-positive cases in the country on 15 March, the Telangana health department was yet to confirm the third positive case in the state. It was only after several news portals started reporting that another positive case was detected in Telangana did the state health department confirm there was a third Corona-positive case. The patient is a man in his 40s who had a travel history from the Netherlands and was admitted in the isolation ward of Gandhi Hospital in Secunderabad on Sunday.

Interestingly, the COVID-19 bulletin released by the state health department has no specific column regarding contact tracing, which refers to the process of identification of persons who may have come in contact with an infected person. While states like Kerala and Karnataka have devised flow-charts visualising contact tracing of an infected patient, similar models have not been adopted in Telangana yet.

An official associated with the health department, on the condition of anonymity, told NewsMeter, “We have official orders from the Telangana government not to disclose information on Corona virus cases to the media, which is why most officials are afraid to talk. Furthermore, authorities are taking the situation very lightly in Telangana.”

The official further added that this will only lead to more backlash in the form of misinformation, especially on social media. “Lack of information will ultimately lead to a backlash. Now itself, people are running away from isolation wards. They are not self-reporting as they should. This is not the case in other states where the government is more transparent,” he said.

On 16 March, the Telangana government asked passengers who had travelled to China, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany through direct flights to be quarantined for 14 days after their arrival in Hyderabad. Whether steps have been taken to find out the exact number of such passengers and whether they have been in contact with others, such information is not available.

Additionally, several health experts have also opined that the reason for the less number of COVID-19 cases in India could be due to less number of tests being done here. In a conversation with Huffington Post, former director of National Health Systems Resource centre T. Sundararaman said the government of India needs to offer tests more widely so as to find out how much the infection has spread across the community and to chart out plans for social distancing.

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