Is Manipur taking adequate steps?: Warding off COVID-19

Three deaths and 155 infections and counting and sure to climb in the coming days. The figure may not be much when compared to other countries such as China, Italy, Iran and others, but there must be some reason why Dr T Jacob John, former head of Indian Council of Medical Research’s Centre of Advanced Research in Virology, a Government funded institution, has forecasted that the number of infected may be 10 times higher by April 15 and this is a disturbing figure rolled out by the expert. With one of the poorest public health systems in place, India beautifully fits the description of a country which can  very well become the next hotspot for COVID-19. A look at the reality should tell its own story. With a population of 1.3 billion people, with many not having access to hygienic living, the slums and the gutters that overflow at any given point of time, the all round filth and this is something which cannot be corrected overnight but will need the concerted efforts of everyone. A look at the population density should also tell a significant story. China, the country which was the hotspot for COVID-19 has 148 people living per square kilometre while in India it is 420 people per square kilometre. A near perfect script for any virus to play havoc with the people. At the moment, the testing capacity for the virus is only 500 samples per day, prompting Indian Council of Medical Research to look forward to having a testing capacity of 8000 samples per day. This could be one reason for the figure of only three deaths and 155 infected cases till date, and once the testing capacity is increased, the figure may just increase drastically.
This is the overall situation in India and the important question at this juncture is how well prepared is the Government of Manipur to tackle the situation if and when the virus lands here ? The casualty rate may be low, perhaps as low as 3 or 4 percent, but the matter of graver concern is the speed at which the virus can spread.  Is Manipur really primed to tackle with the situation if and when the novel coronavirus lands here ? How effective is the screening work taken up at the airport and along the National Highways ? This question is important for with all schools having been closed till March 31, a large number of students studying outside the State have started coming back home. How effectively are they being screened along the National Highways and at the airport ? Is the area designated to quarantine suspects enough to keep all the suspected cases ? Has a model being worked out to quarantine the students coming back home for the minimum period of 14 days ? Can the areas designated to quarantine suspected cases house the huge number of students coming back ? These are questions which ought to be raised at this juncture, for while the population ratio in Manipur be not be as high as the rest of the country, its health infrastructure will have many shortfalls. Prevention is the best way out, but with the virus spreading to 170 countries and territories, India being one of them, Manipur certainly cannot remain lax. This is where the people too need to be on the alert and maintain social distancing, one of the most effective ways to keep the virus at bay.