Over 80 people in India have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Two people in the country have also succumbed to the virus recently. The government recently invoked part of the Epidemic Act of 1897. This Act was recently enforced in Maharashtra and allows the State to "prescribe such temporary regulations" as needed to deal with the crisis.
In several parts of Maharashtra, gyms, swimming pools, theatres and some schools have been instructed to stay closed, while people are being discouraged from visiting crowded public spaces.
In such a situation, if someone that you have come in contact with tests positive for the virus, or even if you have come in contact with a contaminated environment, a quarantine period becomes necessary.
Who needs to be home quarantined?
According to instructions released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a person living in the same household as someone who has caught the novel coronavirus must be quarantined. This also holds true for someone who has had direct contact with the person or their infectious secretions. Even if you have not had direct contact with an infected person, but been in a closed environment, such as during a flight, you might have to undergo quarantine.
Home quarantine is applicable to all such contacts of a suspected or confirmed case.
Keep in mind that the contact in question may have occurred within a 14-day period before the onset of illness in the case under consideration.
How long is the home quarantine period?
The home quarantine period is for 14 days from contact with a confirmed case or earlier if a suspect case that the individual came in contact with tests negative.
What should you do if you're quarantined at home?
The Ministry of Health has issued instructions for people who are being home quarantined. These include:
1. Stay in a ventilated room, preferably with a bathroom that is not being used by others. If another family member is staying in the same room, try to maintain a distance of at least one meter from them.
2. People in quarantine are advised to stay away from elderly people, pregnant women, children and people with co-morbidities who may be in the same household. With the virus being more likely to adversely affect older adults and people with existing health problems, caution is advised.
3. The individual should restrict his or her movement. Public events or social gatherings must be avoided. Even within the house, it is advisable to limit movement.
4. The individual should also follow the sanitary practices that have been recommended for the public, including washing their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap or with alcohol-based hand sanitisers, wearing a surgical mask at all times and avoiding the sharing of household items such as utensils, bedding et cetera.
Keep in mind that masks should be changed after every 6-8 hours. They should be disinfected and then disposed of safely.
What should caregivers do to help those under home quarantine?
1. Ideally, only an assigned family member should be tasked with taking care of the quarantined individual. They should take note to avoid direct contact with the person as well as soiled linen and other items that could potentially be contaminated. This should be cleaned separately using household detergent.
2. All touched surfaces in the quarantined person's room should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Use disposable gloves while doing so, and wash your hands after removing them. Toilet surfaces must also be cleaned and disinfected daily with regular household bleach solution/phenolic disinfectants.
3. Visitors should not be allowed.
4. If symptoms appear (cough/fever/difficulty in breathing), he/she should immediately inform the nearest health centre or call 011-23978046.
5. Should a person develop symptoms, all the people he or she has come in contact with will in turn need to undergo a 14 day home quarantine. After this, there will be a follow up for an additional 14 days or till the report of such case turns out negative on lab testing.