Itanagar: As COVID-19 continues to spread its wings in the Northeast, a war of words has erupted between several individuals and sections of society on where to shift the first coronavirus patient of Arunachal Pradesh and who all would be able to avail the facilities of Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (TRIHMS), the only designated COVID-19 hospital in the state.
Arunachal Pradesh became the fourth state from the Northeast to join the country’s coronavirus positive map after a non-Arunachalee man from Medo, in the state’s Lohit district, tested positive on Thursday, taking the overall number of cases in the region to 24 in as many hours.
The patient, who is asymptomatic as of now as per the health officials, was among those who had attended a religious congregation in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin. For now, the 31-year-old has been kept at a special isolation room in the Tezu Zonal Hospital.
Merely hours after the news of the first COVID-19 positive case in Arunachal surfaced, rumors of the patient being brought to TRIHMS in Naharlagun gained momentum and there were mixed reactions on the case.
The All Nyishi Youth Association (ANYA) demanded that the patient be kept away from TRIHMS.
ANYA members say the Covid-19 positive patient could create panic and increase the chances of the virus spreading in the capital. The Union has demanded that the patient be treated outside of the state and not kept in isolation at the Tezu hospital for long.
The ANSU has also called upon the government to immediately trace all non-Arunachalee COVID-19 suspected people and send them back to their native places.
Confusion about Arunachal’s first Covid-19 case, however, peaked when state health minister Alo Libang issued a statement to the media that said “critical patients from the eastern parts of Arunachal Pradesh would be treated at the Dibrugarh Medical College (DMC) in Dibrugarh, Assam.”
“The matter of treating serious cases of COVID-19 from the state in Dibrugarh or Guwahati is something that was already discussed by chief minister Pema Khandu with his Assam counterpart. The hospital of our neighbouring state would, however, only look after the serious cases, not the normal cases,” Libang’s statement said.
The health minister’s statement, however, did not go well with many, especially those from the eastern parts of the state.
A joint statement issued by several student and youth organizations like the All Idu Mishmi Students’ Union, All Nocte Students’ Union, All Mishmi Students’ Union and other community-based organisations like Cultural and Literary Society of Mishmi said, “we are not only baffled by the statement but also but also dejected to know that in the fight against COVID-19 the state has been divided into eastern and western Arunachal.”
The organizations in a representation to chief minister Pema Khandu on Friday said: “Your government claims to be a people’s government, if so, why this excruciating statement from a minister of your cabinet. Our health officials and staffs, police personals and other officials engaged in duty against fighting the Covid-19 have not identified any individuals or patients based on Eastern and Western region of Arunachal Pradesh. An ailing patient should not be treated based on his religion, race, identity or region. As an Arunachalee, we too have every right to avail the health facilities at TRIHMS.”
They also said that the health minister’s statement has tremendously hurt the sentiments of the people of entire Eastern Arunachal.
Following the backlash, Libang on Friday, apologized and said that everyone would be treated equally.
Meanwhile, a different debate has ignited between Tezu MLA Karikho Kri and some organizations of the district.
Following a meeting held between the student and youth organizations and community-based organisations over the COVID-19 patient that was reportedly summoned by Lohit deputy commissioner of the district at Tezu on Thursday, Kri alleged that the ones who attended were responsible for shifting the patient to the Tezu zonal hospital.
Kri posted a picture on Facebook (which now is deleted) and wrote: “These people will be held responsible if coronavirus spreads in Tezu-Sunpura area. The immature decision taken by them today morning and diagnosed corona virus patient was shifted to zonal general hospital, Tezu.”
The Facebook post of the MLA did not go well with those who attended the meeting.
“We are very disappointed by the allegation made on us by our legislator. How can a public leader be so irresponsible?,” All Mishmi Students Union president Legem Takaliang said.
“The MLA has not cooperated or even made his presence felt throughout the COVID-19 fight,” he instead alleged.
“We also demand an apology from the legislator within 24 hours or else we will take legal action against him,” the AMSU president said.
Mapu Mihu, the president of All Idu Mishmi Students Union also condemned the MLA for his alleged statement and said they would demand a clarification on the same.
When EastMojo contacted Kri, he said that the decision to suddenly shift the COVID-19 positive patient to the Tezu zonal hospital was taken during the meeting.
“Following the shifting of the COVID-19 patient, most of the indoor patients have fled from the zonal hospital. There are only a few patients left now and those are ladies with gynecological issues. They too are in panic,” Kri said.
Adding to all this, Kri on Thursday wrote to the chief minister requesting him to shift the COVID-19 positive patient his family from the Tezu zonal hospital. He reasoned the shifting should be done urgently so as to provide better medical facilities to the patient and his family.
Kri said that the Tezu zonal hospital does not have the essential healthcare facilities and essential equipment required to save a COVID-19 patient. He added there were also chances of law and order being hampered in Tezu and Sunpura if the patient was kept in the zonal hospital.