Even when the curfew with some relaxations for limited activities of essential services for few hours during day time has been in place for many months, the surge of COVID-19 in Manipur remains not flattened.
In view of the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases with high prevalence of the Delta Variant, the Manipur government on July 16 decided to impose 10-day total curfew in the entire state with effect from July 18 to break the chain of transmission.
Many including civil society organisations and opinion makers thought that a stringent total curfew for a period of time can flatten the surge of COVID-19.
Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren also issued an appeal through a video message on social media and announced the clamping of lockdown in view of the alarming COVID-19 situation in Manipur.
“In view of the alarming Covid situation in the State, there will be a strict curfew from 18th July to 28th July. All institutions will remain closed except for essential services such as medical services, water supply, power supply, telecom/internet services, air travel and agricultural activities. Further, only the people coming out for vaccination and testing will be permitted to venture out during this curfew. State forces along with CRPF will be deployed for strict enforcement of the curfew,” Chief Minister Biren wrote in caption to the video.
Unfortunately, after the announcement of the 10-day total curfew, the streets were clogged with heavy traffic with people coming out in large numbers for buying stocks for the 10-day lockdown or for some other business. The police also had a very difficult time in controlling it. Many wonder if it turned out a fertile environment for Corona virus to spread further.
Notably, Manipur witnessed peaceful response as all establishments and markets remained closed and normal life was brought to a complete halt from day one of the 10-day total curfew till mid-day of July 27. The streets in all districts wore a deserted look as all shops and establishments remained closed and vehicles kept away from the streets.
The seriousness of the State about enforcing the curfew restrictions was evident. Police patrols have intensified and few people or vehicles for the essential services are seen in the streets except few curfew violators.
However, on July 27 afternoon the total curfew was meaningless due to the rousing welcome given by Manipur government and people of the state to the India’s Olympic medallist weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu.
On the first day 10-day total curfew, Manipur recorded 963 positive cases of COVID-19 while 11 persons died and cumulative number of positive cases was 84,822. Number of recovered cases was 73,770 and active cases were 9,676.
However, the surge of COVID-19 in Manipur even after the 10-day total curfew continues with average daily positive cases of 1,000 above. During the total curfew till July 30 the average positivity rate is as high as 16.09%.
It may be mentioned that State Health Services Director Dr K Rajo recently explained about the high number of positive cases that there is no cause for alarm as the surge in positive numbers is due to aggressive house-to-house testing which have successfully resulted in flushing out the hidden positives.
However, the number of daily positive cases before start of house-to-house testing was not much lower than 1,000-mark. Manipur government launched the house-to-house testing drive on July 10 after genome sequencing tests showed considerable increase in the number of Covid cases due to Delta variant. Manipur had confirmed as many as 283 cases of Delta variant till July 30.
According to data available from State Health Department, during the total curfew till July 30, Manipur recorded a total of 13,839 new COVID-19 infections and 176 deaths amounting to total positive cases of 97,698 while 85,422 cases were recovered with a recovery rate of 87.43%. The total number of deaths stands at 1,541 and active cases are 10,735 as on July 30.
As expected the 10-day total curfew has been extended till August 3, 2021. After a brief period of sigh in the first quarter of the years, the curfew and lockdown has been enforced by the State government from April 18 this year with some relaxations from time to time.
However, the common question everyone is asking in Manipur: Is curfew really effective in flattening the COVID-19?
The answer is obvious from the data available. It is also important to note that earlier health experts expressed that the COVID-19 situation in Manipur is community transmission at micro level, which will be hard to flatten.
When the pandemic is transmitted at micro level, total curfew or lockdown is not a solution to COVID-19. Continued curfew hits hard the daily wage earners and non-governmental employees and workers and affects the economy of the state.
Though the curfew or lockdown is meant to save the lives of the people from COVID-19, majority of the people of the state are struggling for a square meal to survive amidst the lockdown.
The Manipur Government needs to learn even from the neighbouring state of Assam which also has high number of cases how they are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic without enforcing total curfew, which is helpful in normalising a law and order problem as short-term measure. COVID-19 pandemic is not a law and order problem rather it is a natural disaster.
Now, it will be wise on the part of the Manipur Government instead of blaming public for not following Covid appropriate behaviour strictly to review the State’s response to COVID-19 pandemic maintaining COVID-19 data properly and analysing it scientifically to learn what the data shows for future course of action to fight the pandemic. A holistic approach to save the people is the need of the hour.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics