Having reported no new COVID-19 case in eight days, and with the number of active patients coming down to eight, Himachal Pradesh is now facing a fresh threat of transmission from thousands of people who have returned home this week from other states following relaxation by the state government.
In neighbouring Punjab, more than a hundred people who returned from Nanded and Kota have tested positive for the virus.
After maintaining strict guidelines on entry into Himachal since the beginning of the curfew here, the state government decided to bring back 105 stranded students from Kota last week following mounting pressure by concerned parents. Beginning Monday, the government also allowed the entry of all other people stranded outside the state, following which thousands from neighbouring states rushed back in their private vehicles after obtaining one-time journey passes from their respective districts.
50,000 returned home
New agency PTI quoted Principal Secretary (Revenue-Disaster Management) Onkar Sharma as saying that over 50,000 people from the state who were stuck in other parts of the country have already returned to their native places in their own vehicles after getting e-passes from respective district magistrates.
The Himachal government will coordinate with other states to know the exact number of stranded people from the state before chalking out a plan to bring them home, Sharma said. “An action plan will be prepared to bring them back after getting exact information about the number of stranded people,” Sharma said.
The state government will also launch an app in which people who want to return back can register. “Any stranded resident who wants to return in his or her own vehicle may get e-pass from respective DMs, whereas the state government will try to make arrangements of buses wherever possible for those stranded Himachalis who do not possess their own vehicles,” he added.
Earlier, at the Mehatpur inter-state barrier in Una district, social distancing norms were reportedly ignored as people queued up for entry into the state. In a Facebook post, former CM Shanta Kumar expressed concern over the situation and said that people are not returning to go into isolation, and it’s not possible to adequately screen such large crowds.
In a television interview Monday, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that such a situation arose for only half an hour as “the area lies in Punjab and the Punjab Police were supposed to coordinate but did not”. He later directed the deputy commissioners (DCs) to allow entry and issue passes in a staggered manner.
According to the state police, 23,361 people entered the state from Monday till 6 am on Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, the district magistrates approved 6,128 more journey permit applications filed by people returning from outside the state, according to the data from 10 of the 12 districts available with the state IT department. Data on the total number of people who have entered this week is yet to be compiled.
State disease surveillance officer Dr Sonam Negi said that all students from Kota tested negative for the novel coronavirus, following which they were allowed to proceed home. “For other people entering the state, we are testing only the symptomatic cases after screening all of them. The others are being asked to go into home quarantine,” he said. It is also mandatory for the travellers to download the Aarogya Setu mobile app, officials said.
Una SP Karthikeyan Gokulachandran said that the police are now making mobile app based entry of all people entering through the state border which is a faster procedure and all entry details are saved at the backend.
DGP SR Mardi on Thursday said that if anyone who has entered the state without notifying the authorities later tests positive for the virus, stringent action will be taken against him or her.
Later in the day, Additional chief secretary (health) RD Dhiman said that people returning from other states are being monitored by police personnel, health officials as well as panchayat members. As per the government, 5626 people are currently under surveillance in the state
Don’t reopen schools in haste: Cong
The Congress on Thursday asked the Himachal Pradesh government not to rush in opening schools in the state as there is a risk of local transmission of COVID-19. Congress spokesperson Jitendra Sharma said online classes for students should continue at least for the month of May. “Majority of scientists in the world are advising that at the moment COVID-19 can be avoided only through social distancing. In schools, it will be impossible to follow social distancing norms,” he said.
Corona crimes (According to HP Police)
– In Parwanoo, a man fled from Institutional quarantine by tying five bed-sheets together and using it as a rope to climb down from the window of the second floor of the building. He is yet to be traced.
– In Paonta Sahib, the police have busted a gang of people who allegedly made fake curfew passes using fabricated seal stamps of the sub-divisional magistrate.
– In Mandi, a hospital patient (non-COVID-19) allegedly spat at a doctor. The police have initiated legal action against him.
– In Hamirpur, three shops were sealed for violating social distancing norms
Health officials said that two more people, one from Kangra and the other from Chamba, have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total active cases down to 8. The two patients who have recovered had allegedly entered the state illegally in essential supply vehicles earlier this month, and later tested positive for the virus.
On Thursday, 366 people were tested out of whom 205 tested negative while the results for the others were awaited at the time of filing this report.
Cases – 41
Deaths – 2
Recovered – 27
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