In yet another shocking incident a group of migrant workers, waiting outside a school in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar for coronavirus screening, were sprayed with a disinfectant by the civic agency on Friday, even as the Union Health Ministry had issued an advisory against spraying of disinfectant on people for COVID-19 management, saying it is physically and psychologically harmful.
It bears recalling that one such incident came to light on March 30, in a shocking video that had surfaced online, migrant workers and their families from Uttar Pradesh were seen being forced to take a bath in alleged chemical solution on their arrival in Bareilly.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) later apologised and said it was a “mistake” as the worker who was handling the spray could not handle the pressure of the machine and the recoil changed the direction of the spray.
SDMC officials have “apologised” to the migrants, the civic agency said in a statement.
At the national capital’s Lajpat Nagar area, hundreds of migrants had gathered outside a school to screen for coronavirus before boarding a special “Shramik” train.
A video of the incident was shared on social media. A worker engaged in a sanitation drive can be seen spraying disinfectant on some of the migrants.
“Since the school is in a residential colony, there was huge demand from residents for disinfecting the compound and the road. But due to the pressure of the jetting machine, the worker could not manage it for some moments,” the SDMC said in the statement.
“The staff has already been instructed to be more careful and attentive while doing the job in future. The official present at the site apologised to public,” the SDMC said .
Earlier, on April 19 the Health Ministry advisory had said that even if a person is potentially exposed to the COVID-19 virus, spraying the external part of the body does not kill the virus that has entered the body.
It further added that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that they are effective even in disinfecting the outer clothing/body in an effective manner.
“Spraying of individuals or groups is not recommended under any circumstances. Spraying an individual or group with chemical disinfectants is physically and psychologically harmful,” it said.
Spraying of chlorine on individuals can lead to irritation of eyes and skin and potentially gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting. Inhalation of sodium hypochlorite can lead to irritation of mucous membranes to the nose, throat, respiratory tract and may also cause bronchospasm, the advisory said.
Additionally use of such measures may in fact lead to a false sense of disinfection and safety and actually hamper public observance to hand washing and social distancing measures, it stated.
In the video footage of the Bareilly incident, a group of migrants can be seen squatting on the road near a checkpoint in Bareilly as officials in full protection gear spray a solution on them. Apart from being fully clothed, the migrants can be seen holding their luggage to their bodies as they get drenched.
The action was carried out by a team on sanitising duty at the Bareilly bus stand. The incident occurred during the presence of Uttar Pradesh Police officials, who can also be spotted in the video. The nodal officer in-charge of COVID-19 in Bareilly, Ashok Gautam, had confirmed that the administration did bathe the migrants with sanitiser, chlorine mixed with water, but clarified it was not a chemical solution.
Amid the nationwide lockdown, thousands of daily wagers and other migrants have undertaken epic journeys to reach home — walking, cycling and hitching rides when they could — in the absence of any public transport and many of them had lost their lives in tragic accidents.