Two weeks after chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb announced Tripura free of the novel coronavirus, the state saw a recent spurt in the number of identified cases, all from a single source.
Tripura has identified 22 new coronavirus cases among BSF jawans from the force’s 138 battalion headquarters at Ambassa in Dhalai district, which was declared a ‘red zone’ two days back. These new cases have rounded up the state’s cumulative active corona count to 62.
This is the fourth consecutive day when BSF jawans tested positive with COVID-19 from the same battalion. The first two corona cases from 138 battalion were reported on May . Since then, multiple cases were identified on every consecutive day.
Total #COVID19 POSITIVE cases in Tripura stands at 64 (2 already discharged, so active cases : 62)
Don’t Panic, Govt is working vigilantly.#TripuraCOVID19Count
— Biplab Kumar Deb (@BjpBiplab) May 6, 2020
Tripura had its first two COVID patients in early April. One of them was a woman who visited Kamakhya Temple in Assam and the second patient was a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) jawan who returned on duty from leave back home in Madhya Pradesh. Both patients recovered and were released from isolation in the same month and shortly afterwards, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb Tweeted that Tripura had become ‘corona-free’ on April 23.
Principal Secretary (Home) Barun Kumar Sahu Tuesday wrote to Inspector General Solomon Minz of BSF Tripura frontiers to enquire into the origin of the cases and steps taken by BSF to prevent further spread among general public and submit a report to the government at the earliest.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, a BSF Public Relations Officer (PRO) informed that they have launched a full-scale investigation into who first carried the virus load back into the battalion.
“We don’t have any details yet. But over 250 personnel travelled back from leave or were training elsewhere in India in March. Some of them might have unknowingly carried the virus load back. We are investigating into the issue and shall submit report to the state government within stipulated timeframe”, the official informed.
He added that ever since lockdown was imposed, BSF has been following a series of precautionary measures to prevent any chance of spread of coronavirus.
All mass physical activities including PT, sainik sammelan or other gatherings are temporarily suspended to avoid any spread of the virus in BSF camps. The usual staffing was also reduced to prevnt escalation of situation. No civilian or workers are allowed to enter any BSF camp for the time being, neither is any BSF jawan allowed to interact with civilians. Jawans staying outside camps on rent and at headquarters with their families aren’t allowed to enter the camps either.
Earlier this evening, Additional Chief Secretary SK Rakesh informed that 435 COVID-19 tests were conducted today across the state including 259 from the worst hit Dhalai district. These tests include BSF personnel from the affected battalion and 51 civilians from Mogbari and adjacent villages.
The official also informed that three areas which were earlier declared ‘containment zones’, are bein closely monitored and roughly 5,000 families living there were strictly asked to stay at home.
Samples were also collected from 786 BSF personnel of 138 battalion and another battalion posted nearby and Bheem, Kareena and SM Para Border Out Posts (BOP) along the Indo-Bangla border.
The border agency has suspended joint patrolling and drills with its Bangladeshi counterpart Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) as well and no exchange of paperwork is entertained now. However, the BSF official feels the case at 138 battalion is an ‘exception’ since there was no similar outbreak in of its other camps spread across 856 Km long international border in Tripura.
“There is no indication of leakage of virus transmission outside the battalion headquarters. We are tracing all the close contacts of affected persons and testing them. BSF is internally maintaining social distancing and quarantine in their places. We are conducting a lot of random tests as well”, the official informed.
Meanwhile, the government has declared Dhalai district ‘red zone’ and marked three locations – the battalion headquarters, a base camp at Gandacherra and a Border Out Post with Bangladesh at Kareena as ‘containment zones’. The area is sealed and contained and intensive surveillance is going on.
Dhalai District Magistrate Brahmeet Kaur said the local administration has marked BSF 138 battalion headquarters at Jawharnagar and 3 km radius around it as containment zone. Two other locations – Gandacherra base camp Kareena BOP were also declared as containment zones though all test reports from those areas have come negative indicating there is no community transmission happening yet.
“Frontline workers including ASHA and Anganwadi workers, alongwith personnel of line departments were pressed into action for door-to-door inspection to find out if anybody have got flu-like symptoms or had any history of contact with the positive cases. Samples are being collected from all such individuals”, she said.
The local healthcare apparatus is focusing on the containment zone and buffer area of 7 km outside it. All households in the containment zones were put under quarantine. A 3 km perimeter around containment zones were sealed to prevent unauthorized exit or entry and prevent spread of infection in unaffected areas.
Tripura Police Inspector General Subrata Chakraborty said police have imposed naaka and patrolling in all parts of Dhalai district. Meanwile, dusk to dawn curfew is in force in all eight districts of Tripura including Dhalai. “The entire district is gripped with tension and anxiety but steps are being taken to convince people for staying indoors and staying fearless”, the official said.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said there are no positive cases among civilian and appealed people not to panic. He also wrote on his official Facebook page that the state government is doing maximum number of COVID tests to ensure further safety of everyone.
“We are conducting maximum number #COVID19 tests to ensure further safety of everyone. Our Govt is keeping close vigil on the current situations. Specialised Doctors are taking care of the Positive patients. I urge everyone not to Panic and Co-operate with Government. Don’t believe in rumours, Govt will take strict action if anyone found spreading any misinformation”, Deb said.
According to latest reports, 1,214 persons are under surveillance for coronavirus in Tripura. These include 81 housed in different quarantine center and 1,033 under home quarantine.
Tripura announces coronavirus test for journalists
In a tweet posted this evening, Deb wrote, “Along with other frontline warriors, media personnel are also moving from one place to another for news coverage. In view of their safety, we have decided to test the samples of all media personnel who are working on the ground. #TripuraCares4all”.
He also said the state government would soon announce a scheme to ensure safety of family members of journalists working in the midst of the outbreak.
Meanwhile, vehicles carrying nearly 200 students of Tripura who were stranded at Kota of Rajasthan, reached Churaibari in northern district, where they were put under quarantine as standard operating procedure. They would be tested there for COVID-19 and if found unaffected, they would be released.
The state government earlier announced it would facilitate return of stranded people with authorities in respective states but expense of the journey would have to be borne by the passengers.
A student who landed in one of these vehicles, said, “We came from Kota today. We started our journey on May 02 and reached Churaibari today. We are grateful to my institute in Kota where I study, for arranging a bus for us. Our journey was good except few problems related to food and sanitation. They collected swab samples from us and we have been housed at a quarantine center”.