Home quarantine of mild cases on the cards

New Delhi: As the number of novel coronavirus cases spikes in the country, the authorities are considering the option of moving from the current policy of institutionally quarantining every Covid-19 positive person to allowing mild cases to be self-isolated at home.

The empowered group on availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities has made this suggestion to the health ministry. According to this group, home quarantine for patients showing mild symptoms could be considered as long as family members are able to provide proper care, and adequate distancing measures can be enforced.

The health ministry is deliberating the matter and may soon issue guidelines.

“We have proposed this to avoid unnecessary burden on the healthcare system,” said a person with knowledge of the developments. This person added that the decision to allow home quarantine will be taken after clinical evaluation and assessment of the conditions at a patient’s home. It will apply only to mild cases without underlying conditions such as heart ailments and renal problems.

The empowered group on availability of hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities is one of 11 high-powered panels set up by the government to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.


‘Global Precedent’

The panel is headed by environment secretary CK Mishra and includes AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, ICMR chief epidemiologist RR Gangakhedkar, Railway Board chairman Vinod Yadav, and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The proposal to allow mild cases to be kept at home was endorsed by the heads of major hospitals.

“If facilities are available and it is feasible, a person with mild symptoms should be advised to home-quarantine,” said Dr Guleria.

Max Healthcare chairman Abhay Soi said anyone with mild flu-like symptoms who has a house with good ventilation should be advised to stay at home. “This (self-isolation at home) is a very good idea. Anybody who has a house and can spare a room with good ventilation should be given permission. That’s the way it has been done all over the world, including in Singapore, the US and UK. We can have healthcare workers from nearby hospitals check on them once a day,” Soi said.

According to the health ministry data, India has a total of 602 dedicated Covid-19 hospitals with 106,719 isolation beds and 12,024 ICU beds.


“While India’s hospitals aren’t overwhelmed yet, we can’t take chances. This move could ease the pressure on hospitals if cases continue to rise,” said another person.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also advocated home quarantine for patients with mild symptoms. “Ensure that shared spaces (e.g. kitchen, bathrooms) are well ventilated (keep windows open), household members should stay in a different room or, if that is not possible, maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from the ill person,” it has said.

A health ministry official told ET that the recommendation for home quarantine is sensible as mild cases do not require much medical intervention. “Since there is no medicine or vaccine, the mild cases can easily be kept at home,” added the official.

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