Increasing positive cases of COVID-19 : Need to regulate flights
Thirty five positive as on May 25 and with more and more people returning by road, train and now by air, Manipur can certainly expect to see more such cases in the coming days. No sign that community transmission has begun yet but there is no guarantee that there would not be in the coming days if utmost care is not taken. Thankfully the Government has abandoned its earlier plan to let those returning by air go home directly with the suggestion that they undergo home quarantine for 14 days. That better sense prevailed ultimately is fortunate, and the focus of the Government should now turn to how to accommodate all those returning by air and other means. On the first two days of flights landing at the Bir Tikendrajit airport, nearly eight hundred have come back and this calls for urgent attention of the Government to the reality in place here. As former Chief Minister Radhabinod Koijam has suggested, the Government would do wise to regulate the incoming flights. Restrict the incoming flights to three or four times a week, suggested the former Chief Minister and there is immense merit in this. This observation was made taking into consideration the fact that the quarantine capacity of Manipur is extremely limited. Questions may also be raised on whether the two testing centres set up at RIMS and JNIMS can cope with the increasing number of people who come back in huge droves everyday. Restricting the number of flights can give breathing space to the testing authorities and also give more space to the different quarantine centres set up. Passengers found negative on testing may be asked to leave the quarantine centres with the needed suggestions from doctors and health workers. It would also help to a great extent, if those who can afford it, can let go the Rs 200 per day (for food) fixed for each incoming passenger during their quarantine period and pay from their own pocket.
The foremost task at hand right now is to ensure that community transmission does not break out in the coming days. This calls for the undivided attention of not only the Government but also the people. The dos and don’ts issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare need to be strictly adhered to else Manipur may soon go the way of other States where the infection has already touched the three figure mark. The positive cases will increase in the coming days, this is for sure and until a cure for the virus is found, people will have to learn to live with COVID-19 and at the same time ensure that they do not get infected. This is where keeping apart the people who have recently come back from other States, particularly States where COVID-19 infection is high, becomes important. Test and test more, is the call but one can understand the testing capacity of the two centres at RIMS and JNIMS. This is where the call of the former Chief Minister to regulate and restrict the number of flights that may arrive becomes important. The State Government should give serious thoughts to this. Keep in mind the number of quarantine centres, the testing capacity of the two centres and the number of people who have lined up to return. Prioritising the people who intend to return has not been worked out for that may involve immense man power and resources but regulate the incoming flights. Having said this, it would not hurt for those planning to return, if they can wait for a more opportune moment to return. This is in the interest of all.