Rohit Datta
Rohit Datta, Delhi's first coronavirus patient, says when he was admitted to hospital doctors assured him that he would make a complete recovery. Image Credit: Supplied

New Delhi: Rohit Datta, the first patient from Delhi who tested positive for coronavirus and has since been cured, has applauded the prompt response of the Indian government in fighting the pandemic, and advised people to report their travel histories.

“India is on a mission mode and working at hectic speed to control the impact of coronavirus throughout the country,” Datta said.

Speaking to Gulf News from his home in Mayur Vihar’s East Delhi area, Datta said, “It was amazing to see the prompt response of the government authorities once my report tested positive at the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital on March 2. Within half-an-hour I was moved to the isolation ward at Safdarjung Hospital. I came to know later that within 25-30 minutes, a medical team had also reached my house to test my family members and homes of some of my friends.”

Datta was discharged from hospital on March 14, but has been asked to remain in home confinement for a fortnight.

The 45-year-old businessman, who runs a company that manufactures technical textiles for footwear, travelled to Italy in mid-February on business along with two relatives.

“We are the only producers of this material that provides strength to leather. At the time of our travel, there had been no news reports of an outbreak of the disease in Italy. It was only later that we came to know of the situation there. We were possibly not screened at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, as we had taken the flight from Vienna,” Datta recounted.

“We reached Delhi on February 25 and on the same night I developed the fever. Treating it as an indicator of travel fatigue, I took paracetamol and in the morning visited a local physician, who prescribed medicines for three days. On February 28, I felt better and since it was my son’s birthday, we decided to have a small get-together at Hyatt Hotel. My mother, wife and our two children celebrated with families of two of my friends, whose children are my son’s classmates.”

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Hospital matched luxury hotel

On returning home, Datta once again developed the fever. By then, news of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy was being reported.

“I won’t deny that I felt very scared and thought it was ‘the end’ for me. The next morning I decided to visit RML Hospital, where a counter was dedicated to patients suffering from flu. We were asked to fill out a form and because I had fever, I checked that box and was advised by the doctors to get admitted,” he divulged.

The next evening, he tested positive and was immediately shifted to Safdarjung Hospital. Providing details of his experience at the hospital, Datta said, “We have never considered visiting a government hospital before and I was pleasantly surprised to find the isolation ward of the hospital matching a luxury hotel. The doctors broke the news to me with an assurance, ‘you will go from here hale and hearty.’ It was very comforting.”

Coronavirus safdarjung hospital
A medical worker helps a suspected coronavirus patient, both wearing protective suits, shift to an isolation ward of Safdarjung hospital after going through scanning at the airport, in New Delhi, on March 4, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

Surprises galore

“The treatment in terms of care was exemplary and the staff extremely polite. It made me appreciate how doctors, nurses and sanitation workers risk their lives to save ours. Sharing his telephone number with me, the senior-most doctor in-charge told me to feel free to call him anytime in the day or night if I required anything.

“Over the days, more surprises awaited me. I received a video call from the Federal Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan, who enquired how I was feeling and whether I liked the hospital food. It made me realize that the captain of the ship knew his job and I was in safe hands! He apprised me that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally monitoring the condition of all coronavirus patients in the country.”

Datta had access to a mobile phone and could make video calls to his family and even watch films. “There was nothing else to do, except rest and unwind. I would do yoga and read books. Realising that I was the first coronavirus case in the capital, I conditioned myself in a way that I could be a role model for others. At no time did I feel disconnected with the world, except that I could not meet my family members.

Isolation at home

Relieved to be back home, he says: “I am undergoing ‘isolation at home’, but however plush the set-up was, it feels good to get away from that hospital and be able to eat home-cooked food.

“However, it will take time for me to go back to my normal life. And my advice to all patients is that it is very essential to not jump directly onto one’s routine life. Just take it easy,” he counsels.

Recalling the downside of his experience, Datta says: “I was a patient, but it was sad to see my photograph and telephone number splashed on social media. I began getting hate messages and calls. Unknown people cursed me as if I had gone to Italy deliberately to get infected. I was made into a criminal.”

Coming out wiser

The experience has only made Datta wiser. Acknowledging that he cannot shut his business ties with Italy, he said, he would certainly not visit the country during such contingencies.

He warned that news about cases of relapse in several people in Japan were merely rumours. “This is not at all true. People should not believe them. I implore all citizens to have faith in the doctors and the nursing staff, who are doing a commendable job in containing the disease.”

When asked if the good treatment meted out to him was because his was the first coronavirus case in Delhi, Datta said: “Please understand that in my case, the medical staff was not experienced and I could still have been at risk. But now they are all well equipped, well researched and experienced enough to deal with such cases. All we need is to strengthen their hands by reporting the symptoms of the disease and not hide in our homes to avoid being hospitalised.”

Status report

Datta had travelled to Italy along with his two brothers-in-law, from Agra, Uttar Pradesh. They also got infected and transmitted it to four other members of the family. All six of them were picked up from Agra by the medical teams and transported to Safdarjung Hospital. While four have been discharged and sent home, two are awaiting test reports.