The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Back home safe after virus scan

Asitabha Purakayastha is free at last — of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), of 16 days of medical confinement and of the strict state scan.

After a marathon meeting at the National Institute for Cholera and Enteric Diseases (Niced) — adjoining Beleghata’s Infectious Diseases (ID) Hospital, where Purakayastha has been confined for the past six nights — the expert panel formed to evaluate the condition of SARS patients and suspects in the state decided that Monday would be the discharge date.

“His reports are normal,” said health secretary Asim Barman, adding that the government would give “globe-trotter” Purakayastha a fitness certificate so he would not face any problem anywhere in the world.

Purakayastha’s family members, waiting for the verdict all day, lost no time at all after the committee observed that the patient was no longer a “threat to society and himself” and was, therefore, free to go “wherever he felt like”. Purakayastha, who has been confined to one hospital bed or another since April 20, finally left the Beleghata hospital at around 4.30 pm.

Although the hospital authorities had kept an ambulance ready for him, the 42-year-old insisted that he would travel in his own car. Dressed in a casual shirt and trousers — a far cry from the medical robe-and-mask garb on the evening of April 29, when he was shifted from AMRI Apollo Hospitals to Beleghata — Purakayastha reached his Madhyamgram home at around 6 pm.

“He is not complaining of any kind of discomfort and his mood is upbeat,” said family friend Swapan Majumder.

As news of his homecoming spread, neighbours, who had earlier ‘boycotted’ the family, started trickling in to inquire about his health.

“I am fine and keen to return to work,” Purakayastha reportedly told them.

The expert committee on SARS, meanwhile, has decided to meet again on Tuesday to decide the fate of Radheyshyam Gupta. Now recuperating at the Beleghata hospital, Gupta is on the verge of completing an additional seven-day quarantine, after a 10-day isolation period, as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to Barman, the blood reports of two other SARS suspects, Hazari Prasad and Sisir Sanketi, were yet to arrive. “They are also improving and will be released in due course,” he added.

The health secretary also confirmed that Nirmal Ganguly, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), would be coming down soon for talks with the government about integrating Niced with ID Hospital, for joint action against infectious diseases.

Director of medical education C.R. Maity, who is also overseeing the work of the expert committee on SARS, said no new suspects had been admitted to the state hospitals. “Things are getting better with every passing day, but we will continue our vigil at the airport until the Centre changes its stance on the issue,” confirmed Maity.

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