New virus strain : The world is worried Awaiting results from NIV

The world is worried. India too is worried. But is Manipur worried ? This question has been raised in the backdrop of the fact that compulsory testing of incoming air passengers has been done away with, save for passengers who have had a travel history to the United Kingdom in the recent past. And it is one such person with a recent travel history to the UK who has been found positive for coronavirus. The worrying point is whether the said patient could have been infected with the new virus strain which is thought to be much more contagious. The answer will be known only after result from the National Institute of Virology at Pune comes but the worrying point is, at least 8 people who have recently returned from the UK have been found infected with the new virus in India and given the virulence of the new strain, there is no reason not to suspect that the virus could have spread to other people, who are yet to be tested. This is what is worrying and this is where the wisdom of doing away with the compulsory testing of incoming air passengers can be questioned. Even if different States have done away with the compulsory testing of incoming passengers by flight, Manipur need not do away with the compulsory testing. This is all the more so since restrictions on the movement of the people have been greatly eased, thereby giving more room to the virus to spread. No point in taking chances and this is a point which has already been raised in an earlier commentary in this column. Test, trace and treat-the three Ts can be ignored only at the peril of everyone and the only way to take the battle to the virus is to keep on testing and all incoming air passengers need to be treated as suspected cases. And test is the only way to confirm or reject the ‘suspect’ status. 
How minutely is the process of contact tracing taken up is another question that merits the attention of the Government. Has the Government and its agencies been able to trace all the fellow air passengers who returned along with the UK returnee who has tested positive ? This is a question that needs to be raised at this point and it would help a lot if the Health Department can give an update on how many contacts have been traced and move beyond the one line statement, ‘‘contact tracing has started.’ It would help a lot if the number of contacts traced can be spelt out for information to the public. It is only when the Government and its agencies demonstrate a serious approach to the task at hand that people can be expected to be serious about the threats posed by the virus. And the new virus strain discovered at the UK is all the more reason for the Government to up its ante and intensify testing, tracing and treating. The drop in the daily infection rate in the last few days should not lull anyone into a false sense of complacency for that could be suicidal for all. The people too should wake up to the gravity of the situation. As stated many times in this column, the virus is still out there and a vaccine is yet to come. Even if the vaccine does come, it doesn’t mean that all will get it soon, for the Government will first have to prioritise the front line warriors and put in place the needed preparations. The two day dry run for Covid vaccination  on in four States including Assam should be an eye opener for everyone.