New BMC rule says home isolation no longer an option for anyone over 50, irrespective of symptoms or comorbidities; doctors say this will spark fear and cause many to shun tests.

If you are over 50 years old and test positive for Covid-19, the BMC’s latest rule change could spell bad news. The civic body has decided to make it compulsory for anyone over 50 who tests positive to check in to a ‘CCC2 facility’ — a BMC-run Covid care centre with doctors and nurses available around the clock. Mentioned in a circular issued on Wednesday by Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer with the public health department, the new rule is ostensibly aimed at lowering the high death rate among patients aged 50 to 60.

The circular, which was sent to all assistant commissioners and medical officers, stated: “Home isolation should be allowed for a presymptomatic, asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic patient only below 50 years having no comorbidity. All above 50 years [irrespective of symptoms or comorbidities] should be insisted to (sic) get admitted in CCC2 hospital. No home isolation should be allowed.”

The circular added that until now, home isolation was recommended for patients under 60 with no symptoms or mild symptoms who did not have to use a common toilet. This meant many from the middle class and upper-middle class who tested positive chose to isolate themselves at home. Now, home isolation will be allowed only for patients below 50 with no symptoms or mild symptoms, and no comorbidities. Everyone else who tests positive will have to report to a CCC2 facility.

Dr Rahul Pandit, a member of the state-appointed Covid-19 task force, said, “Maximum mortality is in the 50 to 60 age group. If such a person comes to a hospital early, [treatment] can be managed better.” Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani echoed this view.

However, other doctors that Mirror spoke to strongly opposed the new rule, saying it would discourage people from getting tested out of fear of being forcibly admitted to a Covid facility. One doctor called it an “extreme measure”. Dr Deepak Baid, president of the Association of Medical Consultants, said, “This order will create fear in the mind of citizens, who are already not keen on getting tested. All those above 50 or those with any comorbidity will avoid getting tested out of fear of being admitted forcibly. It will also put pressure on our healthcare infrastructure.

He added, “But the BMC’s attempts to fill up its Covid care centres will fail as those who can afford treatment at a private hospital will not want to go to a government-run facility. Such patients will flock to private hospitals and fill them up, thus making it even harder difficult for people with other illnesses to get treatment. This is an extreme measure to reduce the mortality rate. A better way to do so would be to improve the system of home monitoring by government health officials.”

Dr Jalil Parkar, a senior pulmonologist at Lilavati Hospital, said, “One can’t randomly decide to put all patients above 50 in CCC2 facilities. Instead, people should be informed about the symptoms of Covid-19 and told to get in touch with a doctor at once for timely treatment. We have seen that patients recover better at home than at Covid care centres.”

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