It’s a day most Delhiites would like to erase from their memories but March 1, 2020, the day the city reported its first case of COVID-19, is seared into Rohit Datta’s memory.
There’s no erase button for the businessman, the national capital’s first patient.
From facing stigma in the initial days after the diagnosis to becoming “Googleable” and a popular subject on quizzing platforms now, Mr Datta says life has come a full circle.
“As I was the first case, initially there was lot of fear and guilt too. I would consider myself as the carrier of the virus as I had just returned from Italy after a work-related visit and found myself positioned in a scenario where the unpredictability of this new virus fuelled more fear and apprehensions among people,” he told news agency Press Trust of India.
A resident of Mayur Vihar in east Delhi, Mr Datta had flown in from Italy on February 25 last year, and got fever the same night. Next morning, he paid a visit to a local doctor and got some medicines, he recalled.
February 28, 2020 was his son’s 12th birthday, and he hosted a small get-together at a luxury hotel in south Delhi. That night, he got a fever again.
By February-end last year, the coronavirus had already spread in China, where it was reported first globally in the city of Wuhan, and Italy too had been ravaged by it.
“I then decided to go to RML Hospital, and my samples were taken on February 29 for a Covid test,” the businessman said.
Mr Datta, who turned 46 on July 5, was diagnosed with the infection on March 1. From RML Hospital, he was sent to the isolation facility at the Safdarjung hospital.
“My test report had come positive on March 1, but I was told about it by doctors the next day, March 2. Initially, the plan was to keep me in isolation there for 28 days, but then it was revised to 14 days at the isolation facility and then 14 days of home isolation, where I fully recovered,” he said.
Asked if these dates hold any significance for him, Mr Datta, who had a quiet celebration on his son’s 13th birthday this February 28, said, “March 1 is like an anniversary for me, and I can never forget it.”
“After my case, Delhi saw a raging pandemic throughout the year, and mostly people would like to forget this period altogether, but these dates are seared into my memory now, forever, and in the minds of my family members,” he added.
Delhi saw three major waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the worst being the third one in November. The highest single-day spike in Delhi till date — 8,593 cases — was reported on November 11, while on November 19, the city recorded 131 COVID-19 deaths, the highest single-day fatality count till date.
Delhi recorded 175 new COVID-19 cases on March 1, taking the city’s infection tally to over 6.39 lakh, even as the positivity rate rose to 0.44 per cent, according to data shared by the health department.
The death count due to the disease in the city stands at 10,911.
Mr Datta, a businessman who deals in leather, said he has always been fascinated by leap years, and now “February 29, 2020 is another unforgettable date for me”.
“My sample was taken on this very date, and its anniversary will come after every four years now. It’s quite amusing. Sometimes I feel I was chosen by fate to be in this position,” Mr Datta said, with a smile, adding that he has become “more religious” after his treatment.
He reiterated his appeal to the masses to “not lower guard” even when the vaccination drive is underway, and urged people to observe all COVID-19 safety norms.
Asserting his faith in the doctors and the scientists of the country, Mr Datta said he would wait for his turn to get the vaccine shot.
Of all the new vocabulary that has come in vogue amid the new normal in a pandemic-hit world, he said, “Quarantine is my favourite new word that is now a household term, like self-isolation and sanitisation”.