VILLUPURAM: Details of the week-long hide and seek game between cops and the missing COVID-19 patient ended Tuesday night. Deva (name changed), a 32-year-old hotel management graduate, came to Puducherry from Delhi in December last year looking for a job. A few days later, he was arrested for stealing a car and causing an accident. He was remanded in Puducherry Central Prison.
Deva was booked again in January, this time for issuing a hoax bomb threat to the Raj Nivas in the UT and railway station. Cops later found out that he had used mobile phones of rowdies inside the jail to make the hoax calls. The incident caused a spark, and prison officials raided and seized all mobile phones.
Irked by consequences, a gang attacked Deva inside the prison. Finally, he got bail on March 16, as precautionary measure due to COVID-19. After spending a few days in the UT, Deva landed in Villupuram on March 21. The plan, allegedly, was to hitch a ride back to Delhi. He had pinned his hopes on interstate trucks. The lockdown, however, prevented him from leaving.
He decided to spend the next few days with truck drivers, in the truck parking area. As part of checking those with Delhi travel history, Deva was picked up by the cops for COVID-19 test. He had symptoms, and was admitted to the local government hospital. The initial test showed him negative, and he was discharged with 25 other people on April 7.
Later that evening, the second test report came, which showed Deva and three others had the virus. The cops were alerted. Three others, local residents, were brought back but Deva went missing. Soon, health department officials came up with fresh allegations: that Deva had escaped from the hospital.
Laying rumours to rest, Collector A Annadurai confirmed that he was, indeed, mistakenly discharged. Seven teams were formed to trace Deva. Suspecting that he could have left the district, the cops made a map, detailing the route he could have taken. A team from Villupuram left for Chennai. They pasted notices in three languages, about Deva.
On April 14, a truck driver from Tirunelveli identified Deva at Padalam, near Maduranthagam. He was at a truck lay-by. The driver alerted the cops, who rushed to the spot. Deva was shifted to the Villupuram government medical college hospital. Meanwhile, local police officials were alerted, and they secured four persons who were in contact with Deva. Samples have been taken for testing from all of them.
“We could not trace him easily as he had given wrong number and address details at the hospital,” said SP Jeyakumar. The SP said Deva travelled by a truck on the same night he went missing, and reached Padalam.
“As far as we know, no other persons have come into contact with him,” said the SP. One mystery still remains: Where did Deva contract the virus from?