Lockdown and opening doors:
Understanding stranded persons
The figure continues to climb with many experts predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to peak in India. With no vaccine in sight till date, the lockdown currently in force is perhaps the best way to break the chain of transmission. Break the chain of transmission and the State Government has been putting its best foot forward to effectively enforce the lock- down, perhaps best explained by the fact that after the May 4 and May 5 relaxation days, the earlier restrictions have been put in place. Prevention, this is the best and only way forward, but important to question whether the import of such a step has registered in the minds of the people. A look at the daily report of the number of lockdown violators pulled up and the fines thus collected should tell the story of how seriously the people have taken the call of the Government. Social distancing and face mask be damned seems to be the response of the people and this is the same set of people who thought nothing about putting up roadblocks in their leiraks and leikais to dissuade others from moving through when Manipur saw its first positive case on March 24. And to think that this is the same set of people who have been pulled up in great numbers for not maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks while stepping outside would have elicited guffaws from everyone if the matter had not been that serious. So even as the call to all to adhere to the lockdown and observe protocols while stepping outside continues to come from the Government concerned, hectic efforts are on to bring in stranded people from different parts of the country. Already a good number of people have already arrived, particularly from Guwahati and understandably the returnees are being kept at different quarantine centres. This is sticking to protocols and should be encouraged by all concerned.
So far the arrival is from Gauhati and one wonders how it would be like once people start arriving by trains. Other than Assam, the other State that the returnees had to pass through was Nagaland, where only one case of COVID-19 has been reported. More importantly the infected person from Nagaland is not added to the figure of Nagaland but Assam, where he has been taken for treatment. The scene however would be vastly different once people of Manipur start arriving by train. Whichever place one is coming from, it stands that the train will pass through a number of States and regions which have active COVID-19 cases. Will the present arrangement work once people start arriving by train ? Or will new arrangements have to be made ? The Government must have worked out the measures that need to be taken, but let it be clear that the focus should be on all those who are coming back. Intensified lockdown will have no meaning if adequate steps are not taken to ensure that no new fresh cases come up and as everyone knows, humans are the carriers of the highly contagious virus. Enforce the lockdown effectively yet at the same time let no windows be open for the virus to creep in. The return of many people of Manipur by train will perhaps be the first real tough challenge for the Government and the people. Here it would also do wise for all, particularly the Government to understahd who really can be called a stranded person. Does a student studying in another city and staying on rent or in the hostel fit the bill of a stranded person or should it be about an individual who is caught midway while returning home ?