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Thursday, December 03, 2020

COVID-19 in Northeast India: No confirmed case yet, but borders sealed, vigil up

COVID-19: A round-up of the precuationary measures across Northeast India

Written by Debraj Deb , Jimmy Leivon , Tora Agarwala | Agartala, Guwahati, Imphal | Updated: March 14, 2020 8:29:48 pm
Workers in protective gear busy loading and unloading goods at the cargo terminal of Akhaura Integrated Check Post of Tripura on Saturday. Akhaura is one of the few border check posts still functional in the country. Express photo by Debraj Deb

While COVID-19 cases are on the rise around the country (82 positive cases and two deaths), none have been reported from Northeast India so far. However, the states, which share international borders with China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, are following precautionary measures as per government guidelines to prevent an outbreak: most borders have been sealed and vigil is up.

A notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday directed all types of passenger movements through immigration Land Check Posts (LCP) located on Indo-Bangladesh border, Indo-Nepal border and Indo-Myanmar border to be suspended from March 15, 2020. According to the order, the LCPs to remain operational are: Mankachar and Sutarkandi on the Indo-Bangladesh boder in Assam, and Darranga in Indo-Bhutan border in Assam; Dalu and Dawki on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, Agartala on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Tripura, Kawrpuichhuah on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Mizoram and Zokhawthar on the Indo-Myanmar border in Mizoram.

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ASSAM: Morning assemblies in school cancelled, 599 people contact traced

When a 76-year-old tourist, who had travelled through Assam, was tested positive in Bhutan last week, the state embarked on contact-tracing, or tracking all those who had come into contact with the tourist during his week-long visit. 

“We traced 599 people, who have all been quarantined. Out of 599, eight people showed symptoms of fever. We tested them twice, and fortunately all eight resulted negative,” said Minister of state for health, Pijush Hazarika.

The government has also readied isolation wards with 48 beds in six medical colleges. “Additionally, each district hospital, has two beds kept in an isolation ward,” Hazarika told the Assam Assembly on Thursday.

While the government has not made any public announcement regarding the closure of schools and universities yet, State Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, on Saturday, told All India Radio, Guwahati that Deputy Commissioners have been instructed to discourage mass gatherings.

Bangladeshi nationals wait in queue on Saturday for immigration check at Akhaura Integrated Check Post in Tripura. Express photo by Debraj Deb

Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that the government will take a “holistic view of the issue”  and will respond to the situation “appropriately”. 

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In a notification from the Education department, all education institutions (schools/colleges/higher education institutions) were Saturday instructed to cancel ‘morning assemblies’, exhibitions, excursions etc. In the order signed by Preetom Saikia, Commissioner and Secretary to the Assam Government, teachers have been asked to ensure students undertake “preventive interventions” such as frequent hand washing that should start with the commencement of classes, respiratory etiquette (using handkerchief while sneezing, coughing) and avoid gatherings etc. The preventive measures shall remain in force till April 15, 2020.

On Friday, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal decided not to take part in any public programme till March 31.

There are two places where one can get tested for COVID-19 in Assam: Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati and Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh.

Helpline: 0361-6913347770

NAGALAND: Use of hand sanitizers and masks compulsory is public areas

In Nagaland, 2008 passengers have been screened at the Dimapur Airport, 110 people are under surveillance, and two people are under home quarantine, as per the information provided by Dr. Nyanthung Kikon, Deputy Director of the Health and Family Welfare Department.

On Friday, the Home Department of Nagaland has directed compulsory use of hand sanitizers and masks in all public areas in the state. All Deputy Commissioners, in a notice signed by Dr Zasekuolie Chusi, have been directed to ask people to compulsorily use hand sanitizers and masks in public areas. Salesmen and shopkeepers, who usually come in contact with large crowds, have been asked to wear masks. The directive also states that all establishments must keep sanitizers handy for personal and public use. Each district commissioner has been asked to set up phone lines so the public can report instances of hoarding or selling of masks/sanitizers at a higher price. Additionally State helicopters, buses and taxis in all districts have been sprayed with disinfectant. 

Helpline: 0370-7005539653

TRIPURA: All right Land Custom Stations (LCS) and two Border Haats with Bangladesh shut

In Tripura, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb Saturday informed that that no COVID-19 positive case was identified in the state so far and appealed to people not to panic. “We have medical teams at various entry points: airport, railway stations and border check-posts. We have also got special isolation wards set up in hospitals,” the CM said.

In a press conference at the state secretariat, CM Deb said provisions of Epidemic Disease Act- 1987 were now enforced in Tripura to ensure that coronavirus doesn’t spread under any circumstance here. While clarifying that there is no epidemic situation in Tripura, Deb said the Epidemic Disease Act would make emergency services of doctors and paramedical staff members compulsory in case such situations were to arise. All the District Magistrates (DMs) were put on alert as well.

Bangladeshi nationals return home on Saturday for immigration check at Akhaura Integrated Check Post in Tripura. Express photo by Debraj Deb

West Tripura Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Debashish Debashish Das said isolation and quarantine facilities were set up at state-run Gobinda Ballabh Pant (GBP) Hospital and Indira Gandhi Memorial (IGM) Hospitals to treat any patient, if infected. An isolation ward was also set up at Tripura Medical College and Dr. BR Ambedkar Teaching Hospital, which is run in Public-Private Partnership.

Meanwhile, the state has shut down all eight Land Custom Stations (LCS) and two Border Haats with Bangladesh to prevent possible spread of the disease across the border. Akhaura Integrated Check Post (ICP) is still functional, albeit only for goods transport and return of Indian travellers stranded in Bangladesh and vice versa. No fresh departures or arrivals are permitted as per a travel advisory issued by the Bureau of Immigration.

Over 15,000 were screened since the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare sounded coronavirus alert in January. Among them, 37 persons with history of travel to foreign countries or being in touch with foreigners from COVID-19 affected nations were kept under preventive observation.

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Akhaura ICP Manager Debashish Nandi informed that while foreign passengers were not allowed to enter India through the check post anymore, trucks carrying loads of cargo were still allowed inside.

Sixty workers engaged in loading and unloading cargo at the ICP, mostly from Bihar, said they were provided facemasks and gloves and were asked to use them compulsorily during working hours. However, Naresh Kumar, Chandan Kumar and others found working in the ICP’s cargo terminal said many truckers from Bangladesh are coming in without masks and other protective gears, exposing others to possible infection.

Helpline: 0381-2315879 

MANIPUR: Educational institutes shut till March 31

In Manipur, one patient was admitted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) isolation ward as a precaution but later discharged when results were negative.

The Manipur state government ordered the suspension of all classes in educational institutes of higher education including universities to avoid and reduce mass gatherings. The institutes will remain closed till March 31. A similar order was also issued by the education department for the closure of all schools( including private) recently.

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The authorities have also prohibited gathering of 100 or more people particularly during the “thabal chongba” or the traditional Manipuri dance performed across the state during Yaoshang festival in the month of lamta (February-March).

While the prohibition will be in place until further notice, family rituals like marriage, shraddha among others will be allowed only after the approval from the deputy commissioners of the concerned districts.

Manipur began taking up preventive measures against the Coronavirus since January 18. Screening of passengers began at surface entry points and the airport began on January 31. Over one lakh passengers/travellers entering the state have been screened to date. As many as 405 passengers are under surveillance and a total of 227 have completed the observation period. Out of 14 samples sent for testing, 13 came negative while one sample was rejected due to non-compliance with the case definition of COVID-19 testing.

The State Government has set up isolation wards at RIMS consisting of eight beds with four ventilators and an isolation ward with six beds and one ventilator is ready for treatment at JNIMS hospital.

Helpline: 0385-3852411668

A taxi driver in Guwahati, Assam uses a mask as a precautionary step during COVID-19 outbreak. Express photo by Tora Agarwala

MEGHALAYA: Isolation wards set up, 74 in home isolation

The one COVID-19 test done in Meghalaya turned out to be negative. According to the state government, 74 people who have travel history to ten countries are being kept under home isolation for 28 days. “We are also doing follow ups — making regular calls, tracking their symptoms etc. We have completed 57 follow ups,” said Dr M Marbaniang, Joint Director of Health Services (MCH & FW)-cum-Nodal Officer.

The health department has issued an advisory to various departments as well as newspapers and local television with dos and don’ts as per the guidelines of the Central government. “We have screening counters in Umroi airport and the public has been advised to avoid mass gatherings. Passengers are being made to fill a self-declaration form at the airport,” she said.

Isolation wards have been set up, training has been carried out in both state and district levels. “We are issuing advisories through local press — newspapers and television,” Dr Marbaniang added.

Helpline: 9366090748

MIZORAM: 40,000 screened, all border check-posts closed except six

Mizoram has screened nearly 40,000 people during its coronavirus check-up since January 15. 

As part of precautionary measures and central government travel advisory, the state government has suspended all fresh arrivals of foreign nationals through its airport, border check points with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Mizoram Chief Secretary Nunmawia Chuaungo told that all border check-posts in the state were closed except six approved points, four of which are with other Indian states like Manipur, Tripura and Assam. Assam shares two border points with Mizoram at Bhaibai and Vairengte, Khawkan with Manipur and at Kahnmun with Tripura’s North district.

The other two border points of the state are with Bangladesh at Kawarpuchiah and with Myanmar at Zokhawthar for emergencies; medical teams are deployed to screen people there. Mizoram shares 510-km-long international border with Myanmar and 318-km borderline with Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the government has expedited surveillance for domestic passengers at Lengpui Airport near Aizawl. State Nodal Officer of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDPS) Dr. Pachau Lalmalsawma said that 124 persons were kept in isolation to quarantine them. Many of them had travel history to affected countries or had shown primary flu symptoms. However, none of them have been confirmed to be coronavirus positive.

Chief Secretary Chuaungo appealed people to stay safe, use sanitary measures, avoid public gatherings and mass meetings. The government has asked traders to prevent unnecessary price hike and avoid hoarding of essential commodities.

Helplines: 102 (toll-free), 0389-2323336, 0389-2322336 and 0389-2318336.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH: All PAPs issued to foreigners cancelled, Rapid Response Teams (RRT) set up

The state government has set up Rapid Response Teams (RRT) at state and district level to act as first responders in case any patient is detected positive. Awareness is being generated via radio talks, sensitization initiatives by district disease surveillance authorities, regular central monitoring of health situation etc.

Meanwhile, isolation wards were set up at Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (TRIHMS) and Bakin Pertin General Hospital (BPGH) at Pasighat. Besides, quarantine facilities were identified in five districts to maintain cluster containment strategy of possible suspect cases.

The state identified 12 persons who travelled to COVID-19 affected countries and were kept under preventive observation and quarantined for 14 days.

Dr. Lobsang Jampa, state nodal officer for Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), said that people have been advised to follow health advisories issued by the state and central governments including proper respiratory or coughing etiquette, frequent washing of hands, strict home quarantine for those who recently visited affected countries in case of asymptomatic subjects. In case of those who show visible symptoms like cough, fever, running nose, difficulty in breathing etc, the IDSP is collecting samples for testing at Regional Medical Research Centre or at ICMR in Dibrugarh.

“We have cancelled all PAPs issued to foreigners as precautionary measures. We check air passengers at the airport in Pasighat. It is a small airport. We usually get 500 passengers on a daily basis through railways. We aren’t able to check roadways. Two of our hospitals have got isolation and quarantine facilities set up and district authorities of all 25 districts were asked to start two-bedded isolation wards in their areas,” Dr. Jampa informed.

The state government has cancelled all protected Area Permits (PAP), which are mandatory for foreigners from visiting the state. For Indians from other states, Inner Line Permit (ILP) is mandatory here.

Meanwhile, the state government has suspended tourism activities at Namdhapa Tiger Reserve till further orders to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Helpline: 360-436055743, 8837052402 and 9999723102

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