No doubt, something went haywire in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic at Jiribam. Whereas the whole country has been slowly unlocking or opening up after months of lockdown, the entire Jiribam district has been constrained to remain under complete lockdown till July 15. The State Government is seemingly left with no choice but clamp curfew in the entire district after 28 police and VDF personnel tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities have already certified that the mass infection by coronavirus at Jiribam is a case of cluster transmission. Everyone will agree that imported COVID-19 cases are bad and cluster transmission is worse. But what is worst is community transmission which fortunately has not yet been detected in the State. It was an ASI who was first tested positive for COVID-19 before 27 other police and VDF personnel were tested positive. Out of the 27 police and VDF personnel who were tested positive later, many did not have any contact with the ASI. It is this part which the authorities and the public must pay extra attention. It is for this very reason that curfew has been clamped in the entire Jiribam district. Apart from strictest adherence to prescribed SOP and guidelines, the situation demands extensive tracing and testing. The decision of the State Consultative Committee on COVID-19 to carry out mass testing in Jiribam is exactly what is demanded by the unfolding situation. The mass testing should be done promptly without any delay. All the contacts of the 28 positive people should be traced and put in quarantine centres or isolation wards, depending on the individual cases.
As stated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the lockdown or curfew cannot go on forever. The Prime Minister went on record stating there won’t be any fresh lockdowns anywhere in the country. But unluckily, Jiribam has been put under a fresh lockdown albeit in the form of curfew. As demanded by the situation, the State has already spent over three months under complete and partial lockdown. Even though the lockdown has been relaxed to a considerable extent, life is still quite far from being normal. In fact, every aspect of life has been either thrown out of gear or brought to a complete halt. Lockdown means confinement of all the population within their houses which implies complete curtailment of one’s freedom of movement. With neither vaccine nor drugs available to treat COVID-19, the only and best way to protect oneself from the virus is prevention. It is on this very premise that the lockdown is justified and also accepted by the masses. In fact, the adage ‘Prevention is better than cure’ has been always true and it is truest in the present context of novel coronavirus. Lockdown is basically about minimising social contact and interaction to the lowest level. Certainly all possible preventive and precautionary measures should be taken up at individual as well as community level. Tracing, testing and isolation must be done on war-footing lest cluster transmission is transformed into community transmission. The COVID-19 situation in Jiribam must be brought under control as quickly as possible so that it is not left out of the unlocking process which has been already put in motion in the State and elsewhere across the country. Of course, the fight against COVID-19 must continue but the State should not overlook the crippling impacts of the protracted lockdown on all aspects of life.