The Government of Manipur appears to have decided that the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is now coming to an end. This is because the state government has closed down the six Covid Care Centres (CCCs) since December 17 as if there is no more need for such centres for Covid-19 positive cases.
This can be confirmed from what State Health Services Director, K Rajo said in Imphal on December 18 in a weekly media briefing on Covid-19 update that the Covid-19 situation in the state is improving as new cases have been consistently less than 100 per day in the last few days. Hence, the CCCs at UNACCO Meitram, Bal Bhawan, RD Wing Lamphelpat, Lamding Higher Secondary School Thoubal, Model Residential School Noney and at the Savana Mandap in Churachandpur have been closed since December 17.
However, Dr. Rajo further said that though six CCCs were closed down from December 17, every district will continue to have at least one CCC for emergencies as a few people still succumb daily to Covid-19. The government is putting efforts to control the mortality rate as well.
Justifying the closure of Covid Care Centres, it is also said that though the number of positive cases exceeded the recovery rate before December 13, recovery rate surpassed positive cases after December 13. As such, the number of active cases which were above 3,000 before December 13 came down to 1,872 on December 17. Out of 4,60,665 samples tested for Covid-19 in the state since the outbreak of the pandemic, 27,540 only were found infected by the virus. The recovery rate from December 4 to December 13 was 87 percent initially but increased to 91.97 percent, the Health Director added.
Moreover, the thermal screening centres at Mao and Jiribam gates have been discontinued from December 17, and COVID-19 testing of incoming air passengers at the Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal has been discontinued from December 18 as per government’s order after the decision had been taken in a meeting of Covid Task Force on December 14. The order further stated that the thermal screening surveillance will be made more vigorous by increasing the number of screening counters at Imphal Airport from one to four.
The order also stated that targeted testing is not considered essential when the percentage of air passengers testing positive for Covid-19 has reduced to about one percent and that the positivity rate is below two percent.
Further, the order stated that Covid-19 testing will be done for any symptomatic person and any traveller with a history of contact with a positive person.
Besides these developments which have been reviewed positively by the state government, every section of the society, all social gatherings including marriage ceremonies and all political gatherings seem to have normalised. However, the Khwairamband Keithel and educational institutions in the state still remain closed quite arbitrarily and remains a case in point.
The imposition of night curfew in winter seems meaningless as people except those who are on their professional duties don’t want to go out of their warm and comfortable homes in the chilly winter night.
In the present Covid-19 context of Manipur, the SOPs are also not enforced successfully. There is no social distancing at all in any political gathering of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, though wearing of face masks by some people can be seen. The same is also in the case of many government functions involving mass gatherings.
If the Covid care centres are now closed, thermal screenings at the Jiribam and Mao gates have been stopped, Covid-19 testing at Imphal Airport has been discontinued, all the business centres and service sector are allowed to conduct their business as usual by following SOPs, why should the three Khwairamband Nupi Keithels and educational institutions be kept closed.
We know that the Khwairamband Nupi Keithel and educational institutions of Manipur were shut down much before the Covid-19 lockdown in India. This has hit hard the daily wage earners of Manipur and affected the economy of the state since Khwairamband Keithel, which is the heart of Manipur’s agrarian economy, has been shut down for almost 10 months while big businesses in and around Khwairamband Keithel dealing with goods from outside the state are allowed to run their business.
On the other hand, the state government continues to give loans to women vendors while their activities are not allowed to carry on. This will definitely make them defaulters of the bank loans and make them victims in due course of time.
Since the closure of the educational institutions, particularly schools, the present generation has been deprived of their right to education in the name of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, while the children of the rich families continue their education by hiring private tutors besides online education which children of the poor families are deprived of since they can’t afford smartphones.
Shutting down of Khwairamband Keithel and educational institutions by the state government in the name of fighting Covid-19 while all sectors are functioning as if it is normal situation will no longer be a wise decision. Instead, it would be better to allow the Khwairamband Nupi Keithel vendors and school authorities to open while maintaining SOPs strictly. Moreover, Khwairamband Keithel vendors and school authorities may be more creative and innovative in evolving a safer new normal. Otherwise, the question is still pertinent – Why should Khwairamband Keithel and educational institutions, particularly the schools, remain closed in the name of fighting Covid-19 pandemic?
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics