Fifty-seven girls living in a government-run shelter home in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur city have tested positive for the coronavirus over the last week, PTI reported on Monday. Five of the girls were found to be pregnant.

Two other girls at the shelter home were also found to be pregnant during a medical examination but they tested negative for the infection.

All the 57 girls have been moved to Covid-19 hospitals for treatment while the staff and other inmates who tested negative have been placed under quarantine. The shelter home has been sealed.

Kanpur District Magistrate Brahma Dev Ram Tiwari said that the girls were pregnant before they came to live in the shelter home. “The five pregnant girls, who have been found Covid-19 positive, were referred by the Child Welfare Committees of Agra, Etah, Kannauj, Firozabad and Kanpur under the POCSO [Protection of Children from Sexual Offences] Act,” he said. The district’s Senior Superintendent of Police Dinesh Kumar also claimed that the girls were pregnant before arriving at the shelter home, according to News18.

The cluster of cases at the shelter home emerged after a random sampling test on June 12, The Indian Express reported. Authorities at the shelter home tested all 171 inmates after one positive case was found. Fifty-seven inmates, between 15 to 17 years of age, were found to be infected. A staff member has also been found to have contracted the infection.

Officials suspect that the staff member could be the source of infection at the shelter home. She used to accompany the inmates to hospital for medical check-ups, according to the newspaper.

The shelter home incident has triggered a political blame-game in the state. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the state government of suppressing facts about the exploitation of children at shelter homes. “The whole country knows about the Muzaffarpur shelter home case,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “A similar case emerged in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria. This goes on to show that everything is suppressed in the name of investigation. But there are many inhuman incidents happening at state-run child shelter homes.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Subhashini Ali, meanwhile, met Kanpur SSP Dinesh Kumar and submitted a formal complaint in the matter, according to Hindustan Times. She claimed that one of the inmates was also HIV positive and another had Hepatitis C. She also complained about hygiene problems at the shelter home.

Uttar Pradesh has so far reported 16,594 cases of the coronavirus and 507 deaths, according to data from the Union health ministry.

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