The disappearance of a 28-year-old woman after she was taken away by a Covid-19 ambulance has highlighted the government’s failure to effectively inform the public about Covid-19 procedures, her family alleged.
The incident happened in Bommanahalli shortly after September 3 when Archana (name changed), a customer service executive, was tested along with other people on her street allegedly as part of a Covid-19 mass testing programme being conducted in the zone.
“An ambulance was there with a swab collector, two other personnel and a driver, all wearing PPE kits and carrying documentation. The ambulance also carried a tag which said — On BBMP Covid-19 Duty,” said Archana’s brother-in-law, Vikas Kumar (25).
According to Kumar, on September 4, at 4.30 pm, the ambulance returned with the same driver and another individual in a PPE kit who informed Archana that she had tested positive. She was advised to take only a few essentials and leave her cellphone behind.
“We were told the drop-off point was a private hospital half a kilometre away. However, when we got there at 5.15 pm, we found that the hospital had no record of admitting Archana,” Kumar said.
The incident comes in the wake of the rape of a Covid patient by an ambulance driver in Kerala.
Authorities at Bommanahalli zone denied having conducted any tests on the missing person’s street. A senior official said that neither the men nor the ambulance were operating on behalf of the government.
“We have a strict policy. We send an SMS to the patient with the driver’s name and ambulance number an hour before the ambulance gets there. Patients can carry their phones with them too,” the official said.
Kumar clarified that the family had not received any messages or the Specimen Referral Form (SRF)-related SMS conveying a positive result. “We did not know we were supposed to get an SMS,” he said.
This is not uncommon, said Suresh N, a veteran technologist and ex-chief citizen coordinator, Corona Warriors. “I personally know of a couple of confirmed cases who were never informed by SMS that an ambulance was coming to pick them up,” he added. Text messages conveying SRF results are also known to be delayed for as many as eight days.
‘Taken against her will’
Joshi SrinathMahadev, DCP (South East), said Archana has since been traced to Delhi. “She claims to have left ‘voluntarily’,” Mahadev said. However, the police are investigating.
Kumar said he is convinced his sister-in-law had been taken against her will.
“She only had three sets of clothes in a grocery bag and Rs 400. Would anyone leave with just this?”.