In an alarming case amid novel coronavirus spread in the country, 55-year-old Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Delhi succumbed to the deadly virus on Tuesday, April 28. 

The death of the sub-inspector rank official of the 31st battalion based in Delhi, the first of its case reported in the battalion, has stirred panic among the largest Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).

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Panic instigated in the battalion

The SI's death has meanwhile led to a lot of anxiety within the force, which feels the blame does not lie with them.

Two signal directives to all force formations in the CAPF issued by Deputy Director Medical are now in the centre of controversy. The first one issued on April first mentioned only five days quarantine instead of MHA's general advisory of 14-day quarantine. And the second on April 17, which changed the quarantine period to 14 days.

According to the "signal order" which states the "Management of Covid-19 patients and augmentation of staff", the competent authority directs all paramedical staff who are presently on leave/temporary duty and has completed the same, may be directed to report at the nearest CRPF hospital or any CAPF hospital, to reach there without breaking the Iockdown discipline to augment the strength of paramedical staff for much needed health care facilities in the country.

Measures for tracing the possible contacts

The directive further reads: "In order to curtail the Covid-19 infection in the force, the paramedical staff who joins the force from leave will be screened for Covid-19 infection and may be kept in quarantine initially for a period of five days with observation of development of any symptoms of Covid-19 and quarantine period may be extended more if symptoms of Covid-19 appears.

Senior CRPF officials believe the quarantine period needed to be for much longer period. This is at a time when the DG himself decided to home quarantine for 21 days after coming in indirect contact with a Covid-19 patient. He tested negative but completed his self-isolation.

The first casualty sub-inspector Mohammed Ikram Hussain contracted Covid-19 from a nursing assistant in the force.While the signal order stated that medical staff should be under quarantine for five days, sources say, the officers chose to extend the nursing assistant's quarantine from April 7 to the April 16.

During the period, he showed no sign and was put on medical duty in unit hospital. As part of contact tracing, all those who had visited the unit hospital between April 16 and April 18 people were asked to self-quarantine.

Battalion sealed

After its personnel tested positive, the CRPF battalion has quarantined all its personnel and shifted 45 who tested positive to the government quarantine centre in Mandoli.

CRPF and police men wears masks

A CRPF personnel of the 31st Battalion, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said while positive cases are treated by government, the tests conducted by a private lab have been largely paid by the personnel. He said several of these personnel were forced to shell out Rs 4,500-Rs 9,000 for one or two tests, respectively.

Another CRPF jawan in the unit said, "What is the point of distributing masks and gloves when the CRPF cannot fend for its own personnel. We are made to believe the reimbursement of the amount any soon."

After cases of corionavirus were reported in one of its battalion, the CRPF has now formed a Covid-19 management team. The team is headed by a commandant, which will look into all advisories related to the force. who was found positive in their camp.

Home Minister mourns the death

Union Home Minister Amit Shah mourned the death of the CRPF Sub-Inspector, calling it an "irreparable loss". Posted with the 31st Battalion in Noida, the SI succumbed to the dreaded virus due to "breathlessness" during the treatment at around 4 p.m., an official of the CRPF said.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) SI, a resident of Barpeta in Assam, got the infection from a nursing assistant of the force who had tested positive earlier this month. The SI was reported Covid-19 positive on April 24 and was admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital.

A total of 30 other CRPF personnel, who came in contact with the nursing assistant, are under quarantine at the Delhi government's facility in Mandoli. The information came at a time when the deadly virus has already snuffed out 54 lives in the national capital, besides infecting over 3,000 people.

Expressing condolence, Home Minister Shah tweeted: "I am deeply saddened to learn about the death of the brave Sub-Inspector of CRPF who was fighting the coronavirus infection. He fought heroically with the disease until the end. His contribution to the service and internal security of the country inspires all of us."

CRPF soldiers wearing masks

Shah said that he had spoken to the family members of the SI over phone on Sunday.

"Losing a brave soldier of the country is an irreparable loss for all of us. I express my condolences to his family. The entire country and the Central government are standing with his family in this hour of grief," the Home Minister said.

CRPF Director General Anand Prakash Maheshwari in a tweet said that the SI fought valiantly but succumbed to the viral infection. "The CRPF SI contracted the viral infection on the line of duty. He faced it valiantly but succumbed. We stand shoulder with the family in this hour of grief and reiterate our commitment to the people," Maheshwari said.