By - Sanjenbam Sadananda Singh, IRS
Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax, Kolkata
Chaoba lost his job again. He used to work in a reputed restaurant in the Capital City. His landlord does no longer want him to stay in his rent. He has some savings but his life is uncertain. Once a lovely place with lot of happenings, the city becomes a hotspot for the Pandemic. Like him, there are many others who are facing a never seen like crisis. It is a nightmare for many people who work in the unorganised sector or private sector. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, he sets out to the home state in the hope of finding solace. Is he to be blamed ?
Life as we all know will never be the same again. History taught us lessons and scientific predictions make us cautious. About a century ago, humankind faced natural and manmade disasters in the form of Spanish Flu and First World War. The pandemic claimed more lives than the war itself. It infected more than 500 million people worldwide and millions succumbed to it.
The government has done the right thing to announce the nationwide lockdown early. Manipur was a step ahead. In fact, the Manipur government started the ground work quite early. It started the screening of arriving passengers at the Imphal International Airport since January. Its also quite commendable to the frontline warriors, local administration, clubs and various NGOs who have made it possible for the government to contain the virus in the first round of fight.
A battle is won but the “War” remains to be won now. Many fellow Manipuris are stranded in various parts of the country. They have gone there for various reasons - education, medical treatment, in a transit, business, and employment to name a few. With the third positive case in Manipur. It becomes a very difficult situation to take a right decision. But to fight the virus with a humane face becomes more important.
In this line, the National Carrier has been the backbone of the Vande Bharat Mission. Similarly, various state governments have started special transport facilities to take home the stranded people. The advantage here is Manipur is not a big state nor has the issue of having huge population. Despite limited resources, it is within the reach of the government to take care of the stranded population. As per the official report, more than forty six thousand people have registered in the website launched by the government. The moot question is can we control a second wave?
With the view to prevent a second wave in mind, all the incoming citizens of the state should be tested irrespective of the symptoms. If tested negative, quarantine should still be made mandatory as per ICMR guidelines. However, they can be given the liberty to be home quarantined under strict guidelines and eligibility criteria or community quarantined. After completion of mandatory 14 days quarantine, another test should be conducted either at the expense of the returnee or at a subsidised rate. For these, the government constituted observers and local volunteers can be roped in. If somebody in a group of returnees is tested positive, then whole group should be immediately tested.
Since India is in the third stage of the transmission, community awareness is of the prime importance. Once one positive case is detected in the community, the whole area needs mass testing and contact tracing shall become harder. This is why many people are against the idea of taking in the stranded citizens. But since the decision has been taken and the plan has been already rolled out, then no stone should be left unturned to contain a second wave at any cost.
The best practices are out there to be copied from. Providing hygienic basic amenities during the quarantine period is key to calm the body. To calm the mind, some task or arrangement can be made while maintaining social distance like motivational speech or music. Even the return journeys can be staggered to optimize the available resources –quarantine centres, testing capacity and support staff. If one warrior is affected, everyone who has come into contact with him/her shall be quarantined. Before travel, the stranded people should, if possible test themselves. Positive people should get treated there itself instead of travelling back home. Else while taking the long journey, if social distancing and preventive steps are not taken, then there is chance of contracting the virus from one asymptomatic to even tested negative co-traveller. Preference shall be extended to those with medical conditions and people under certain age category.
This is the time to show the utmost discipline and compassion on the part of the people stranded outside and who are already inside the state. If self-discipline is not observed, the chances of spreading the virus one way or the other is inevitable. It is the responsibility of the returnees to be vigil and stay discipline at all times even after 14 days quarantine. For these every step has to be planned and no loose end should be there.
The green zone tag is no longer there and a big challenge lies ahead in front of everyone. The game is not over till there is a vaccine. Till then, our first target is to ensure that no new case arises and people should practice social distancing and hygienic lifestyle religiously.