CHENNAI: The Greater Chennai Corporation has been repeatedly suggesting that volunteers involved in relief work get themselves tested for Covid-19 so that they don’t risk the people they come in contact with every day. But the rush of people at the testing centres has been cited as a reason for turning away asymptomatic workers.
A corporation official said the testing is being prioritised for people with symptoms. The official said, “Since hundreds of people are thronging the testing centres, priority is for those with symptoms.”
However, the volunteers are worried because they claimed that a few who had symptoms had been turned away. They said they were being exposed to scores of people everyday, and hence, must be given priority in testing centres, irrespective of being symptomatic or asymptomatic.
“Recently, I went for a check-up at a testing centre in Nungambakkam. But the officials were quick to say that they were not testing people without symptoms. When we began relief work, GCC officials advised us to get tested once in every 10 days. We meet hundreds of people every day, that too, in Covid hotspots. But still we are not being tested,” said G Lokesh, who has been distributing groceries to slum dwellers. He was concerned about volunteers like him becoming the reason for yet another cluster in Chennai, exposed as they are to so many people while at work.
Another volunteer, who requested not to be named, said, “Since they are refusing to test in government centres across zones even if a patient has symptoms, I am going to government hospitals. But it is scary to enter a hospital when you already know there are people inside the building who are Covid positive.”
S Prasanna has been carrying out his door-to-door work with fear in his heart. “A volunteer involved in relief work visits at least 10 houses in a day. In case he/she is infected, there are high chances that everyone he meets will get infected. Though we are wearing gloves and masks, the possibility of the spread is high. Also, since we primarily visit people who are at the lower rungs, they mostly live in houses that are cheek-by-jowl. Asymptomatic or symptomatic patients, the threat remains the same,” he said.
A corporation official said he would look into the issue of symptomatic volunteers not being tested and ensure they are not turned away.