Kohima: Amid coronavirus (COVID-19) scare, the Nagaland department of health and family welfare said that the state is “well prepared” in case of confirmation of any case. Till 9 am of March 9, no samples were sent for testing as the travelers under quarantine showed no symptoms of the deadly virus.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Dr Vizolie Suokhrie, principal director, health, said that 245 persons with travel history from China and affected countries are under surveillance, of which five are under home quarantine. Till date, only locals who returned to the state were quarantined and no international tourist has so far met the criteria to undergo quarantine.
Preparedness of the state:
The state has put in place all preparedness and control measures as per the directives/guidelines and standard operating protocols of the Union ministry of health and family welfare. Suokhrie informed that universal screening of all passengers arriving to Dimapur Airport have started since March 7, although screenings of passengers arriving from affected countries began on January 30.
While no samples have been sent for testing, Suokhrie informed that all logistics for sample collection, transportation and case management are in place, in case any suspected persons are detected. A total of 52 beds in isolation wards of the district and military hospitals have been identified and kept ready. Suokhrie said that nearly 60 beds each will be identified in Kohima and Dimapur at the earliest. He added that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), N95 masks and hand-held thermal screeners are also provided.
The state public health emergency operation centre with command centre was operationalised on January 28, with regular meeting and situation updates been undertaken by the chief minister, minister of health and family welfare and chief secretary. Suokhrie notified that the department is maintaining constant touch with its counterparts in other states and that the travel history and contact tracing of passengers are actively monitored by its surveillance team.
With all districts forming the district task force headed by the respective deputy commissioners, an office memorandum with regard to schools and biometrics on hand sanitisers and a travel advisory to refrain or postpone travel outside the state have also been issued on March 7.
Deputy director and PRO of Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, Dr Nyan, told reporters that the first step of preparedness was undertaken where the rapid response teams both at the state and zonal levels were trained. He informed that the next step of preparedness with the state trainers will be held on March 11, after which the district level training will be followed up, within 10 days. Notifying that the training is to step up preparedness and to respond to COVID-19, he said that the Rapid response teams are on maximum alert and vigil.
While screenings at the state’s only airport is actively conducted, the department is also keeping in touch with the railway authorities to spread maximum awareness. Suokhrie said that identifying railway and roadway passengers is a concern and a major challenge for the department and requires the support from the police and other departments. However, signages with helpline numbers are put up at the railway station in Dimapur. Dr Nyan added that the railway officials and its medical teams are also informed to maintain travel history of its clients. He further claimed that the state has enough manpower, in case of detecting any COVID-19 suspect.
Immediate ban of foreign tourist is not a necessity:
Following chief secretary’s statement that the state will not restrict the inflow of foreign tourists in the state, Soukhrie said that immediate ban of foreign tourists is not a necessity as the Government of India have directed ban of areas that are required to. He added that foreign tourists are screened at the port of entry and screening at Dimapur airport is either the second or third screening.
He revealed that the number of foreign tourist in Kohima has declined on Monday with just five foreign tourists in the state’s Capital. Appealing citizens not to panic, he said that the department will be coordinating with the churches to create awareness.
While the state government has ordered sealing at international cross border, Suokhrie said that the inter-state movements are also being monitored, although no active screening is being conducted. He informed that the tourists entering Mon district will also be screened. It may be noted that the Konyak Union (KU) has ordered a ban on domestic and foreign tourists into Mon district particularly till during maiden festival –Aoleng festival—which is celebrated in the first week of April.
On monitoring price hike of surgical masks and hand sanitizers:
With panic amid coronavirus scare, the department of health and family welfare, has directed the drug controller to monitor and regulate the sale of surgical masks and hand sanitizers to ensure that prices of these products are not hiked in the state.
Suokhrie clarified that healthy persons are not required to wear surgical masks unless one is taking care of an infected person, but that one can wear when one is sneezing or coughing. He however appealed all to maintain personal hygiene particularly washing hands properly.
On rumors circulating on Social media:
With no confirmed cases so far, Suokhrie said brushed off all rumors which claimed that positive cases of COVID-19 are reported in the state. Saying that the rumor of a confirmed case in Manipur is false, he added that the Surveillance team is in constant touch with the surveillance team of the other states.
Nagaland’s COVID-19 helpline desk at 24×7 services:
For any queries and information related to COVID-19, the department’s helpline numbers 7005415243, 9856071745, 7005536953 are available 24×7.