Imphal: Eminent academicians from Manipur who are working in various prestigious institutions across the country have suggested chief minister N Biren Singh on various measures for effective ways to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Acknowledging the chief minister’s prowess leadership and frontline workers of the state who are actively engaged in combating the unprecedented health crisis, the academicians pointed out their concerns, especially the issues pertaining to the returnees from metro cities and the challenges posed by the conditions of the quarantine centres in each districts.
In a little over a week, Manipur has witnessed a sudden spurt of COVID-19 positive cases, especially from those stranded returnees from various parts of the country.
As of now, Manipur has recorded a total of at least 25 active COVID-19 cases, after two were already discharged from hospitals.
A letter which was sent to chief minister on May 21 stated that even though the administrators and frontline workers have been stressed beyond their limit, there are certain issues pertaining to policy, which require immediate attention in order to avert the posed a major health crisis in the state.
In the letter, in order to strengthen the fight against COVID-19 and facilitate the safety of the people, especially during evacuation of returnees, the group of intelligentsia from the state proposed the following steps to CM Biren Singh:
* Mandatory institutional quarantine and testing: A mandatory 14-day institutional quarantine and testing of all the returnees should be conducted before they are allowed to proceed to their respective villages that do not have healthcare infrastructure to handle COVID-19 and any health emergencies. We urge your office to immediately intervene and halt the issuance of notifications by various district COVID-19 committees. No returnee should be allowed to return home without mandatory test.
* Monitoring body for quarantine centres: Most of the institutional quarantine centres in the hill districts are functioning without a standard protocol. In some cases, inmates in these quarantine centres have openly protested about the abysmal condition of food, sanitation, waste management and physical distancing. In some centres, the families of the inmates are made to deliver the food. There is an urgent need for a statutory body to direct and monitor the operation of these centres to avoid an imminent outbreak. The statutory monitoring body can function under the direct supervision of the chief medical officers (CMOs) or State COVID-19 Committee as deemed appropriate.
* Phase-wise induction of returnees: We understand that most of the state legislators and administration in the hill districts are already under tremendous pressure to facilitate the return of migrants. Given the fact that the returning population is huge for the district quarantine centres to accommodate, and compounded by the poor testing capacity, we suggest for the evacuation of the returnees in phases. This will ease the pressure on the district administrators and institutional quarantine centres. It can also have a substantially reduce the possibility of an outbreak.
- Fund allocation: While the state has allocated funds to the quarantine centres most of them have not received it and we request that this matter be looked into urgently. The village run centres across is already functioning and they need to be fully supported to meet our long term goal in combating COVID-19. While Tengbang has brought relief to many people it has not reached to all deserving people. Moreover, one time relief is not sufficient to meet the needs of those left without job and earning. There should be minimum support for those stranded in various parts of the country and waiting to be evacuated.
* COVID-19 lab test at Mao Gate and Jiribam Railway Station: The pandemic is unlikely to end in the immediate future. So, we strongly feel that healthcare facilities at entry points to the state by land need to be well equipped and upgraded. The Sub-District Hospital at Mao Gate should be equipped with a laboratory for COVID-19 test, adequate manpower and other infrastructural supplements.
With the first batch of 84 stranded Manipur natives arrived from Guwahati by bus on May 2, till date over 12,000 stranded persons have reached the state either by hired buses or the Indian Railways’ special trains.
A total of nine trains have arrived Jiribam in Manipur on Saturday to ferry back the stranded passengers from metro cities as part of Manipur’s massive evacuation drive.