As COVID-19 positive cases climb in the state on account of stranded Nagas returning home from different parts of the country, Nagaland administration is atrociously caught napping and confused. Can this be forgivable? During a recent press conference at Kohima, Nagaland Health Minister S Pangnyu Phom, who was greeted with brickbat of biscuits at Tuensang, had openly admitted the ‘joint mismanagement.’ The big question is ‘What is this joint mismanagement?’
COVID-19 is a new and extremely contagious disease which is devastating the world currently. It is caused by the Novel Coronavirus, a zoonic pathogen carried by bats which is believed to have begun transmitting to humans in a wet market in China’s Wuhan Province sometime in December. On January 30, the disease was declared a health emergency by the WHO and on February 11, named disease was named COVID-19. On March 11, WHO decided to call it a pandemic.
Under the circumstance, can Nagaland afford to have so many loopholes in its management of the possible outbreak of the contagion in the state, including the ‘miscommunication’ among the various functionaries who are dealing with the returnees and handling and managing the various quarantine centers, particularly institutional quarantine centres?
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had already admitted the ‘mismanagement gap and some miscommunication among the various functionaries. But when Phom admitted ‘joint mismanagement,’ then it only shows either they are not properly trained to handle the situation emerging out of a large number of returnees at the quarantine centres or something they are not following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that had been issued by the government with revisions from time to time. It seems to be a human failure and not a system failure.
In-charge of Dimapur COVID-19 activities, Y Kikheto Sema, while briefing the media on May 28 at Dimapur alerted that they were likely to face accommodation problems for the returnees as the number kept increasing day by day. He said they were expecting around 4000 persons to register in the returnees’ form but it went up to 18000 within two days.
Managing Director of NHAK, Dr. Thorusie Katiry, while talking to Eastern Mirror, on May 31, also expressed concern on the spike of COVID-19 cases in the state. He said they could not keep COVID-19 patients only in Kohima and Dimapur. With more returnees from Chennai getting tested positive for the virus, the designated COVID-19 centers in Kohima would soon become saturated, he warned.
As per the revised SOP, persons who returned to the state on May 22, 2020, by the Special Train from Chennai and are still in Kohima and Dimapur quarantine centres will continue to remain until they test for the COVID-19. Those who have tested negative will be sent to their home districts. It also says that those who have tested positive but do not require hospitalization and are fit to travel will also be sent to their home districts to be kept at the COVID-19 hospitals for treatment. And those persons tested positive and showing symptoms requiring hospitalization and not fit to travel will be shifted to the COVID-19 Hospitals of Dimapur and Kohima as the case may be for treatment.
In this way, the accommodation problem in quarantine centres at Dimapur and Kohima will be drastically reduced. There should be a sharing of responsibilities in catering to the need of patients. Chief Minister Rio should also personally monitor every development, even by personally visiting quarantine centres to see how those returnees, particularly from the Red Zone areas, have been staying.
Some high-ranking officials directly dealing with the COVID-19 issue do not know of how many quarantine centres are there in the state. This shows that they are not updated, a sign of the ‘communication gap.’
Most of them appear to be not smart in modern gadgets. We have seen how functionaries, in various countries including China, have been handling COVID-19 cases by using Social Media Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Zoom, and WhatsApp. Technology makes things easier to keep everyone communicated, updated, and even in the fight against the virus. WHO Director-General’s live media briefing on the COVID-19 is amazing, besides educating the whole world. Such live media briefing also comes in Social Media Platforms.
If we do not adapt to these fast-changing modern technologies, it is simply impossible to fight the COVID-19. The ‘joint mismanagement’ is the outcome of ‘miscommunication.’ Therefore, they must work in tandem, while sharing responsibilities in the fight against the pandemic.
No enemy is here. The government should invite tech-savvy young people in Nagaland to work with them. It must be close to the people in reality. We have to join hands to fight the pandemic. This way only will we be able to move fast in effectively combating the COVID-19 in the state.
Senior journalist and author based in Kohima