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Manipur COVID-19 Crisis Deepens, While Manipur High Court Blasts 2-Man Central Committee’s Report on COVID in State

Although the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren announced recently that Manipur was now fully prepared to face a possible third wave of COVID-19 and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus, the COVID-19 crisis is worsening in Manipur with the highest ever COVID-19 positive cases of 1,128 in a single day July 16.

The cumulative number tests reported till July 16 were 9, 89,283 while the total number of positive cases was 82,688 and the total number of recovered cases was 72,305. As on July 16, the active cases who were undergoing COVID-19 treatment are 9,033 while the total number of deaths reported was 1,350.

Manipur COVID-19 situation becomes more alarming with a total of 205 nasopharyngeal swabs collected from different parts of the state have been confirmed as Delta Variant positive according to the latest updates from the state health department.

In an effort to control the rise in COVID-19 cases in Manipur, the State Health Services on July 10 started house-to-house testing for Coronavirus infection in several districts in the state

In a series of tweets, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren said that house-to-house testing for COVID-19 has started in Imphal West and Imphal East on July 9 along with mass vaccination drive at assembly constituency level across the state.

“Along with mass vaccination drive at constituency level across the state, house to house testing of COVID-19 has also started at Imphal West today. Similar exercise will be taken up in other districts as well.”

“House to house COVID-19 testing started at Achanbigei area of Imphal East District as well,” Chief Minister Biren tweeted.

As the Chandel district magistrate Mayanglambam Rajkumar had on July 14 issued an order to conduct house-to-house COVID-19 testing, the Chandel medical team in collaboration with Chandel Police along with Japhou Bazar Authority/Board conducted COVID-19 test drive from house to house in Chandel district HQ on July 15.

Another in-charge of house-to-house testing of the health department Dr Benedict informed that the house to house testing was conducted in Chandel district at Christian village, Hantam village and Panchai village.

Reports quoting Chief Medical Officer of Jiribam District, Dr. E Okendro Singh said following a specific order from the state government, the district administration immediately commenced house-to-house testing on July 10 in Jiribam.

“On the first day, house-to-house testing was conducted in Ward No VIII Chandrapur, and there were no positive cases out of the total of 20 people who got tested,” he said. While there were also no positive results from the 81 individuals who got tested in Ward No VIII Lakhipur on Sunday, a single person tested positive for the virus out of two family members who got tested in Bapupara Ward No V on July 13, the CMO added.

There are reports of house-to-house conduct of COVID-19 testing in the districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Chandel.

However, the house-to-house testing of two family members each which was conducted with police back-up following the order issued by the DC of Churachandpur on July 9 has reportedly not been well received by the residents of Churachandpur.

Some of the locals have expressed that they will not comply with the alleged forced testing but they may agree if it comes with a request or persuasion. An individual who preferred to remain anonymous said that the allegedly forced house-to-house testing was against his fundamental rights and he will not be bullied into testing.

Several efforts are being made by the State government to fight the COVID-19.

However, some efforts drew backlash. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed on July 15 in the High Court of Manipur challenging a notification of the state government giving priority to vaccinated persons while relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.

The PIL was filed by an Advocate and Social activist, with a plea for setting aside the para 2 of the notification terming it illegal.

On June 30, the Home department issued a notification that the state government proposes to relax curfew/containment zone orders in the future in a calibrated manner by assessing the Covid infection scenario and while opening up, without compromising public health safety, the government considered it prudent to prioritise opening of institutions, organisations, factories, shops, markets, private offices, etc., where employees and workers were Covid vaccinated. The government further stated that the order would also apply to NREGA job card holders and workers of government and private projects.

The petitioner stated that the state government’s notification is clearly in violation of Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India wherein unvaccinated people are being discrimination at large by prioritising the vaccinated people by the Government of Manipur.

The petition stated that there is nothing to show that vaccinated persons cannot be infected with the deadly virus or they cannot be spreaders. If both cover their faces with a mask as per Covid protocols, there is no reason to discriminate against the unvaccinated people, it stated. Such notification debars the basic fundamental rights of the people which are Right to Live and Right to Livelihood, it added.

Meanwhile, reports said that the Additional Advocate General Manipur S Rupachandra informed the court that the notification is merely an expression of intention by the government as to what it proposes to do once relaxation of the curfew/containment zone orders is resorted to.

Rupachandra asserted that the voiced intention of the government will not be acted upon till such an event comes to pass and prayed that he may be given an opportunity to file a reply properly explaining the situation.

Subsequently, the court asked the respondents to file a reply by June 27 before the next hearing due to be held on July 28.

In the meantime, the court ordered that Paragraph 2 of the “impugned” notification shall not be given effect to, even if the state resorts to any further relaxations, until the next date of hearing.

In another development, Manipur High Court on July 15 found recommendations in the interim report made by a two-member central team which visited the state to study the conditions contributing to a higher incidence of Covid-19 cases in the state unsatisfactory.

A division bench of the court comprising chief justice Sanjay Kumar and justice Kh Nobin was unsatisfied with the report as it was neither signed nor dated; it was not even addressed to anyone in particular and not made available to the state government.

The division bench also noted that the recommendations, nine in number, made by the team did not even spell out in clear terms as to what steps had to be taken by the state government to address each of the issues highlighted.

“Making general and vague recommendations would not achieve the desired result as the very purpose of the two-member team, deputed by the central government, coming to Manipur for physical inspection was to study the ground realities being obtained here so as to make concrete proposals and recommendations for improving the situation.

“However, the recommendations set out in the interim report fall far short of the required standard,” the court’s order mentioned.

In this regard, the division bench directed the central government to draw up detailed recommendations based on the findings of the team and communicate the same to the state government immediately so as to enable it to take appropriate measures in terms thereof.

During the hearing of the PIL that was filed, seeking the court’s direction to procure sufficient oxygen and ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, the division bench issued the direction after taking serious note of the alleged lack of proper communication between the Centre and the state government.

After noting that the opening of ICU/HDU beds in some district hospitals and some selected CHCs are still being studied, the court also asked the state government to explain the steps that have been taken pursuant to such studies.

Questioning the central government to ascertain as to why 12 out of the promised 16 oxygen plants have not yet been established and commissioned in the state, it further asked the central government to file the status and stage of the pending projects in relation to these 12 oxygen plants. Lastly, the court fixed July 29 for the next date of hearing.

However, according to the statement of State Health Department, the total number of beds available as on July 15 is 2087 out of 4223 of which RIMS, JNIMS, I Land Hospital, District Covid Facilities (DFCs), Medical Sans Frontier (MSF), Private Covid Hospitals (PCHs) and Community Covid Care Centres(CCCs) has 224, 286, 60, 347, 30, 330 and 2946 beds respectively. The total number patients admitted/adjusted at the medical centres as on July 15 is 2136 of which 223 (RIMS), 221 (JNIMS), 28 (I Land Hospital), 148 (DFCs), 26 (MSF), 219 (PCHs) and 1271 (CCCs).

Although the total number vaccinations given till July 15 was 9, 83,206 out of which the number first dose was 8,76,349, the number of fully vaccinated as on July 15 is still as low as 1,06,857 which is only 3.05% of the estimated state’s population of 35 lakhs.

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