HUBBALLI: An essential component of COVID-19 patients’ rights is their privacy, which was violated in Dharwad district after their personal information was leaked on social media a day before the authorities had confirmed the case.
The details of two patients, including their names, addresses, mobile numbers, and age, were widely shared on WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms on Wednesday, even though the district administration confirmed the case only on Thursday.
Deputy Commissioner Deepa Cholan had shot off a letter to the police commissioner, seeking the CDR (call detail record) of the two COVID-19 patients’ mobile phones. The letter had also mentioned the personal details of the patients.
But this letter soon made its way to social media, and WhatsApp users kept sharing it without thinking about the privacy of the patients and their families.
Patients and their family members feel that they could face social hardships if their identity is made public. Therefore, the identity of such persons should not be revealed.
Taking the matter seriously, the deputy commissioner has instructed the Hubballi-Dharwad police commissioner to investigate how the letter was leaked and take necessary action against the culprits.
“Details of the names and addresses of the individuals infected with the coronavirus have been unofficially shared on social networking sites on 22-04-2020. The district administration has taken the case seriously. Sharing this information on social media by civilians, and publishing it by media houses is a crime under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and COVID-19 Regulations, 2020,” a statement from the district administration said.
“Deputy Commissioner Deepa Cholan has written to the Hubballi-Dharwad police commissioner, instructing him to investigate the matter and take appropriate action against the violators,” the statement read.
A neighbor of the 13-year-old COVID patient in Azad Colony, who was reluctant to disclose his name, said, “The girl had gone to her maternal uncle’s house in Mulla Oni for vacation. After his uncle tested positive for the coronavirus, his entire family members, including the girl, were sent to a government quarantine center. After around 15 days, she tested positive today.”
“Her identity should not have been leaked like this. Her father is a very soft-spoken person. Now everyone is looking at them with a different view. With this leak, everyone who knows him got to know that his daughter and relatives are infected,” he added.
According to him, the patients’ family members have decided to lodge a police complaint over the breach of privacy and against people who shared the information on social media.
When this reporter tried to speak to their family members, they were so upset that they refused to talk about it. Their lives have turned upside down.
People must feel the social responsibility and respect the privacy of their fellow human beings.