Hyderabad: Homeless face heightened Covid risk, root for vaccine

Thousands of homeless in Hyderabad limits urge for free Covid vaccination drive
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Thousands of homeless in Hyderabad limits urge for free Covid vaccination drive 

Highlights

  • Thousands of homeless in Hyderabad limits urge for free Covid vaccination drive
  • They have no identification proof to get vaccinated at government centres

Hyderabad: People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.Though the Ministry of Health released 'SOPs on Covid-19 vaccination of persons without mandatory identity cards, photo ID card or mobile number on CoWIN' in May, homeless people who live on streets are left high and dry, as vaccination continues to elude them, making them vulnerable to the dreaded infection.

With raising the alarm bells for citizens, the report 'Covid-19: The race to finishing line' by SBI Research has contended that India may witness the third Covid wave from August 2021 and claims that Covid third wave may peak, a large number of homeless beggars being likely to get infected, as they survive by begging on streets and at traffic signals seek vaccination for the homeless community.

The 52-year-old Shakir Ahmed is visually impaired and has three children. His elder son and wife Asra Begum are his navigators. They all manage to live by seeking money on the Nampally traffic signal near Ek Minar Masjid.

Shakir shared that during the first lockdown he got infected with the virus and was treated at the state-run health care facility. He said, "We don't have a house to live in, when it gets dark we sleep on the footpath and during rain, we manage to rest under bus stops, as we are always among people we may once again get infected, now my wife Asra is going through respiratory problem making her vulnerable of being infected."

With no choice, he had to take his wife along with him daily on traffic signals for begging so that they could at least have one or two meals a day. Shakir informs that his family doesn't have any identity cards like Aadhaar card, electoral photo identity card and driving license. He also said that as he got to know that vaccine costs Rs 750 in private centers he tried saving money for himself and his wife but with no photo ID card, he was unable to get the vaccine.

Shakir asks the authorities to start a special drive for beggars and the homeless so that they can at least prevent the virus.

Like Shakir's family, there are thousands of homeless and beggars living on the streets who are yet to recevive Covid jab. With the government urging every citizen to get vaccinated, beggars question: what about them? Are they not citizens or human beings?

Demanding the government to organise special vaccination drives for the homeless, activist Mohd Majid said, "Beggars are also the super spreaders as they are more likely to get infected and they may also play in the transmission and escalation of infectious diseases in the city."

However, there are close to 10,000 homeless in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) limits. Earlier the GHMC started a mission to make the Hyderabad city beggar-free and during the lockdown, the civic body shifted beggars to shelter homes and in facilities at prison intending to provide them a better living. Later when Covid-19 pandemic cases started increasing in the City beggars were removed and they were again on the streets.

There is no data available with the authorities that show how many beggars or homeless have been vaccinated till now.

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