In the continuing fight against Covid-19 the individuals at the Community Quarantine Centres (CQC) have complained that the government is as if playing a game of dice and they, the quarantined individuals, have become the victims of delay and delusion. The CQC at the Kakching Public School is a case in point if we are to go by the grievances raised by the inmates there. The quarantined individuals are not only going through the harrowing experience of staying in quarantine that is anyway wracking their nerves but also the fact is that the changes in the SOP which are being relayed time and again are further putting them in more misery, making their fate unsure. As the number of those affected by the virus rises the shortcomings in the administration, by way of their hitherto untested level of preparedness, has come to the fore with criticism coming from the public and quarantined people alike.
The main complaint has been that all the CQC are facing a similar situation where testing of the inmates has left much to be desired. For those returning from Chennai, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala who are staying at the CQC ITI they were taken to the Kha Manipur College for tests only after 14 days of already staying at the CQC. The state chief secretary has already notified on June 15 that the state government is following strict quarantine protocol for all people arriving in the state to avoid community spread. For this he has further stated that all those arriving have to undergo RT-PCR test mandatorily and only those tested negative would be allowed to go for subsequent home quarantine.
This being so, the fact however remains that the time lag caused by the delay in testing, or in getting the test results and the consequent arrival of new inmates at the CQCs, makes the earlier group which is to leave on completion of the stipulated period, susceptible to get infected from the newcomers. This being the case it calls for a regulated easing of the quarantine accommodation and timely results of the tests. As had been suggested earlier too a phased manner of arrivals and departure from the quarantine centres should have been part of the method devised by the state government authorities. However, this was totally mismanaged by the state government and, as in the centre, the response has been totally missing, as when the migrants were heading back to their states on foot to later when all of a sudden the railways were opened, and then the airways, to which those stranded trooped in for a large scale transfer exercise that did not consider how the state administration could provide health, accommodation and all other basic facilities, most importantly the medical and testing provisions.
According to the statement from the state’s chief secretary there was by June 15 a backlog of 15,000 samples pending results which the administration has itself said is due to the heavy inflow of people. As a result the chief secretary has asked for notifications to be issued to all airlines, DGCA and AAI to stop all flights to Imphal from June 18 to 28, a period which it counts to be 10 days, but actually is more than that, showing again that some of the allegations pertaining to sloppy handling and oversight could in fact be true. Another question being put up is why the state administration did not have the foresight in this matter and was it necessary to wait till the last moment when the CQCs were houseful and the medical facilities were overawed; and why was it that the state administration reacted only then. This could certainly give more leverage to detractors and genuine quarantine grievance holders to lay their charges which hold the state authorities responsible.
Coming back to the Kakching CQC, inmates have said the new SOP is causing a lot of confusion among the general public, nodal officers, doctors and those under quarantine. Citing that a few stray incidents of mismanagement at some CQCs had attracted more than necessary media attention, they have cited another oversight in a June 10 notification which allowed the inmates to go for home quarantine after 14 days even though the test results may not have come in, which would have put people at the risk of community transmission. However, the state chief secretary’s notification on June 15 rectified this stating that only inmates who have tested negative may be allowed to go for home quarantine. This, the inmates say, are decisions which seem to be made on ad hoc basis. The inmates who are often in despair in the new situation have also shown displeasure over most of the CSOs while asking for help from concerned individuals and responsible authorities, especially the JNIMS and RIMS testing authorities. Till now their care seems to be buried in a lot of paperwork while the ground situation is entirely different and troublesome for the inmates.
The immediate concern of the inmates at the Kakching Public School CQC is that two of them tested positive and now the rest of them are not sure of their own status. All 50 inmates, returned from Delhi on May 25, 26, 27 but although RT-PCR test was done on June 5, and June 3 for a child with co-morbidity, 33 inmates got their result on June 12 while 16, excluding the co-morbid case, have got their results on June 15 evening when the two tested positive. After appeals were sent to the DC the retest of the entire lot has been scheduled for Saturday (at the time of writing) but it is still not known how long this cycle of tests, positive results and further retests would go on as there is no surety how long the results would take to come in. The inmates ask whether such unsystematic tests would not be a cause for more positive cases to arise from the quarantine stay apart from putting financial constraints and unscrupulous use of testing equipment and manpower.
Golu and John, two inmates at the centre, have said that if test results come in a day they are willing to stay in isolation at the verandah of the centre with enough spacing and not use the washroom even. But as there is no surety on the results they are apprehensive the cycle might just carry on and their status not known. They have already spent 25-26 days at the quarantine centre and according to them this trouble could have been avoided if all the test results of the 50 inmates had come in one batch. The problem now seems mostly of unsystematic testing and the underlying question of when will the other migrants have a chance to come for quarantine at these centres if the cycle of retests continues, as accommodation is limited we are given to understand.
Manipur continues to live its nightmare. The savagely bitter ethnic conflict between its Kuki-Zo and Meteis communities which broke out on May 3 at Torbung