Mumbai: WR motormen blame breathalyser test for sudden rise in Covid cases

Late last month, the Western Railway (WR) introduced contactless breathalysers and made it mandatory for all its motormen to blow into it before going On duty and Off duty. However, this exercise didn’t last even for a week. The notice was recalled by March end. The reason being, the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases among motormen. Many allege it shot up ever since the new breathalysers were introduced.

According to sources, currently, there are nearly 35 new active cases amongst WR motormen. “We realised that the Covid-19 cases were spiralling since these breathalysers were made mandatory for all motormen to blow before and after duty. Even after the order was recalled on March 27, the cases are simply increasing,” said motormen on condition of anonymity.

The first Notice was issued by WR on March 20 where it stated, ‘As per instructions of Sr DEE (O), all motormen have to undergo breathalyser test at the time of both On duty and Off duty without fail through touch less breathalysers.’ In this breathalyser, the motormen had to blow into a pipe which was connected to a bowl like mechanism.

Sources claim that there are around 450 motormen and the gap between two of them blowing into the breathalyser was less. ‘In view of the increase in Covid-19 cases, it is instructed to discontinue 100 percent breathalyser test at the time of On duty and Off duty. Now random breathalyser test will be taken on every 5th (motorman) On and Off duty’, read the new Notice issued on March 27.

The cases among motormen have increased even after this order was recalled on March 27, as there are chances that symptoms started cropping up after few days. The Guards – who are there on the other end of a local train – are apparently not been affected by breathalysers as they need not blow into it. At present the motormen do not fall under the bracket of those who are eligible to vaccine by rule. Railway officials claim that only those who are 45 years and above are taking vaccines.

“We have written to the different Municipal Commissioners, State government asking us Railways to define who frontline workers are. They have in-turn written to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare seeking clarity,” said a senior railway official. The authorities on the Central Railway said that there are well over 20 cases of Covid-19 among motormen.

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