Staff at Safdarjung Hospital and the adjoining Vardhman Mahavir Medical College were directed to submit names, mobile numbers, email addresses of all their WhatsApp group admins, which will then to forwarded to the police. This was being done to “prevent spreading of any fake news, rumours, or any other adverse comments statement on social media and the institution by any hospital/college staff”, the circular issued on April 3 said.

“Therefore, you are requested to submit Names, Mobile Numbers, E mail of all ADMIN [sic] of WhatsApp Groups pertaining to hospital staff,” The circular issued by additional medical superintendent Dr. Prem Kumar said. According to a Hindustan Times report, the circular was issued after rumours of looming pay cuts and staff members testing positive for COVID-19 were circulating on the messaging service. We were unable to reach Dr. Kumar for comment. Two resident doctors of Safdarjung Hospital tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and are undergoing treatment at the hospital’s isolation ward, according to multiple reports (here and here).

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had visited Safdarjung Hospital the same day the circular was issued for a review of the facilities at the super-specialty block, which has been converted into an isolation management centre for COVID-19 patients, with 400 isolation and 100 ICU beds.

Doctors, who were WhatsApp group admins, booked in Aurangabad

Last month, two doctors from a private hospital in Aurangabad were booked under for allegedly spreading rumours on WhatsApp. Both doctors, admins of a WhatsApp group called Arogyam Doctors Association, had allegedly claimed that a COVID-19 patient admitted to the hospital had passed away. They were booked under IPC Section 188 (disobedience to order by public servant) and Section 505(2) (statement promoting enmity between classes).