‘New GO violates ICMR protocol’

Experts say order asking COVID positives to rejoin on day 7 dangerous

An order of the State Disaster Management Department allowing special leave for employees of Government and public sector institutions while on quarantine but asking them to rejoin duty on day seven has come in for much criticism from the scientific community.

The order, wherein employees who test positive for COVID-19 are asked to re-join duty on day seven, is unscientific, dangerous, and an outright violation of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) protocols on COVID-19, they say.

ICMR guidelines ask positive persons to remain in home isolation for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or from the date of sampling for asymptomatic cases) and that they may discontinue isolation if there is no fever for three days.

“It is now well-established that a person who tests positive for COVID-19 remains infectious till about day 10 and, moreover, any complications that might arise out of the cytokine storm unleashed by the virus in the body usually surfaces after 7-9 days of symptom onset. This is why the State’s discharge guidelines advise patients with mild or moderate disease to remain in home isolation after discharge from hospital, till the 17th day. This GO is thus ill-conceived, endangers the life of a COVID patient, and puts everyone around him/her also at much risk of infection,” says a senior health official.

“It is a violation of the current COVID protocols in the State also. It might be okay to reduce the quarantine period of a primary contact to seven days. But reducing the isolation period of a positive person to rejoin duty on day seven after symptom onset is not right,” he says.

The GO, issued on September 15, also states that after day seven, when employees join back, only those with symptoms should test for COVID and that those without any symptoms should not test again.

This is in line with the State’s argument that since vaccination against COVID-19 has attained a certain level in the population, asymptomatic people need not be tested and that rather than bother about breakthrough infections and re-infections, the State need to focus only on the treatment of those with severe disease.

The Central Government’s Department of Personnel and Training’s order, regarding the leave of absence for Central Government servants who are COVID-positive, says that “he shall be granted commuted leave up to 20 days, if due and admissible, without medical certificate, on mere production of his COVID-positive report”.

Health officials say that a primary contact on quarantine and a positive patient on isolation are two different things and that the State should correct the unscientific GO.

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