Protesters throw Marie biscuit packets at Nagaland health minister S Pangnyu Phom’s convoy in Tuensang to show resentment for sending returnees to district before COVID-19 test results were declared
Kohima: After an inbound Chennai returnee to Tuensang, who was released from the Kohima quarantine centre, tested positive for COVID-19 in Nagaland, the Confederation of Chang Students’ Union (CCSU) on Thursday protested against the move of the state government in sending returnees to the district before the COVID-19 test results were declared.
Speaking with EastMojo over phone, CCSU president Chingmak said that a short democratic protest was held on Thursday when health minister S Pangnyu Phom visited Tuensang to meet the administration and the apex tribal bodies. Although CCSU was not invited to the meeting, Chingmak said: “We had to agitate to show our resentment.”
He said that the two questions it put forward was on why the returnees were sent back without proper food and why they were sent before the test results were declared. He pointed out that the passengers were sent from Kohima on Tuesday evening without lunch and with just three pieces of biscuits and water for them to survive the night-long journey.
Chingmak, Confederation of Chang Students’ Union (CCSU)
“We wanted to give them back what they gave to my people,” he said, further adding that the residents had decided to return the biscuits and the amount of money that the government may have paid as refreshment for the returnees. Although the government was “not willing” to accept it, the agitators, as a sign of resentment threw packets of biscuits at the minister’s convoy as it began to leave the venue after a brief meeting with the students’ body.
“They are lucky that we did not throw stones. Otherwise, agitations become so violent in our place,” he said. The short notice democratic agitation was called by the student body keeping in mind the social distancing norms which involved only a few student leaders outside the DC office. “I briefed the gathering that it will be a peaceful agitation and that we can shout slogans because we have our democratic rights, but at the same time we knew that the government is here to help us,” he said.
Chingmak said that the health minister had admitted that there was a miscommunication in sending the returnees back to the district before the results were declared. As reported, a patient who travelled to Tuensang along with over 150 passengers on five buses on Tuesday was tested positive for COVID-19, the result for which was declared few hours after the passengers reached the quarantine centre in Tuensang on Wednesday morning, putting many lives at risk.
“If it is tribal issue we can easily tackle it, but since this is something that we cannot see and it is about a virus, we cannot fight back. So we need the government, the medical facilities & equipment,” he said. He expressed gratitude to the Ao Senden and Lotha communities for providing refreshment to the passengers at Mokokchung and Wokha respectively.
One BSL-2, two truenat machines for the district to fight COVID-19
While the state government has decided to set up a BSL-2 in Tuensang, Chingmak said that the Chang tribal and student bodies had written to the government months back-demanding for a BSL-3. “They [Govt] did not listen to us. But when the positive case was detected in Tuensang after the blunder, they sat for an emergency meeting and decided to give us a BSL lab. Their intention is not good,” he said.
During the brief visit, the minister handed one ventilator to the COVID-19 hospital. Chingmak said that the district hospital had only 1 ventilator which was donated by the Assam Rifles. He also said that the lone ICU in the hospital was built through the “contribution of the general public”.
He then said that the minister “promised” to provide two truenat machines for the district by “next week”. The Chang apex bodies initiated by the Chang gazetted Officers Association, he said will be purchasing one truenat machine which will take the total to three truenat machines.
However, a close aid of the minister told EastMojo that the health minister has assured to provide one truenat machine in a week’s time. The source said that the minister appealed the people to be “patient”.
All returnees at Sao Chang quarantine centre to be re-tested:
Pointing out that “almost all of them [returnees] are under threat” as the situation has gone from “bad to worse”, he said that all returnees are under strict surveillance. The minister has assured that samples of all returnees at quarantine centre [which is declared a containment zone] will be re-tested, adding that number of positive cases are likely to spike up.
“But the question is if all of them test positive cases, it will be very hard for us to handle because there are just 14 working doctors and 38 nurses in the civil hospital and they will also have to undergo quarantined after a specific time of duty,” he expressed with concern.
Recommendation on handling over-crowding at quarantine centres in Kohima
“Why should one tribe take the burden of all the Nagas?” the student leader questioned further suggesting that in case of over-crowding at the quarantine centres in Kohima, the government may contact all respective tribal unions residing in Kohima to assist the returnees at least till the time the sample results are declared.
Since all tribes are found in Kohima, he suggested that the respective tribal churches, guest houses, can be used as an alternative arrangement to temporarily decongest the government designated quarantine facilities, with the help of the tribal unions. “Work can be distributed,” he suggested.
He then cited that in Tuensang, there is a proper flow of work distribution where the food provided to the quarantine centres are managed by the 18 churches based on a roster system.
Out of 18 active COVID-19 cases, four in Tuensang
Five Chennai returnees tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, of which one was from Tuensang and the others in Dimapur. On Thursday, the COVID-19 war room declared that nine tested positive, of which three were from Kohima and six from Dimapur.
However, the health minister took to Twitter to clarify that three were from Tuensang and six from Dimapur, taking the number of active cases in the state to 18, out of which 12 are from Dimapur, four from Tuensang and two from Kohima.