‘Signs of community spread’ Over 15 thousand cases

Chief Minister N Biren must have weighed his words carefully before announcing that there are indeed signs of community transmission in the State. The Chief Minister did not exactly go to the extent of proclaiming that there is community transmission in Manipur now, but more than obvious that his observation on October 19 in front of the media that there are signs of community transmission in the State must have come after receiving adequate inputs from health workers and professionals who are engaged in studying the spread of the virus. Significant to note that the proclamation of the Chief Minister came after a group of eight doctors, many of whom had earlier served in different capacities in the State Health Department, had proclaimed that there is community spread in Manipur. The group of 8 doctors had even gone so far as to say that Manipur was in the early stage of community transmission as early as the first week of August and now with the Chief Minister himself admitting that there are signs of community transmission, the time calls for more vigilance and everyone to up their self defence strategy. Stepping up the self defence strategy should not mean anything new except that  people will now need to follow the dos and don’ts of the World Health Organisation and the Indian Council of Medical Research more religiously. Wear a face mask every time one steps outside, maintain social distancing of at least two metres or six feet, wash one’s hand with soap and water thoroughly and regularly or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser, avoid touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth, cover one’s nose and mouth with a bent elbow or a tissue when one coughs or sneezes, avoid large gatherings as much as possible and to seek immediate medical help if one has fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. Not such a difficult thing to follow but the problem is how many people in Manipur are actually ready to sit down and listen to good suggestions.
The question at the moment is whether the guidelines issued by WHO and ICMR would be followed or violated with impunity during the campaigning for the by elections to five Assembly Constituencies.  The Chief Minister has admitted that there are signs of community transmission and the question of importance here is how effectively would the SOPs would be followed during the campaigning in the run up to the by elections. The reality of the situation is, Manipur has already crossed the first stage when it was only people with travel history who were detected positive for the virus and is now well into the second stage where local transmission is rampant. In fact a look at the daily newspapers is more than clear that infection among people with no travel history accounts for most of the positive cases. This is the second stage and Manipur is looking at the grim reality of many cases where the source of infection cannot be traced. This observation is made in the backdrop of the fact that Manipur today has 15,778 positive cases (as on October 19, 2020) with 118 deaths. Over 15 thousand positive cases in a State of just about 30 lakh or so people and clearly the picture is worrisome and so is the number of deaths at 118. The reality is extraordinary and perhaps what is needed are some extraordinary measures and the Government will need to think out of the box.