61 to 286: Covid cases see huge spike in NE

GUWAHATI/AGARTALA, MAY 17 (IANS) | Publish Date: 5/17/2020 9:15:28 AM IST

In around two weeks, the northeast states have seen a huge increase in the number of coronavirus cases, even as they also face the Himalayan challenge as hundreds of thousands of stranded people have started to return to their homes.

According to the health officials, as on May 1, there were 61 coronavirus cases in six of the eight northeastern states. But by May 17, the tally had mounted to 286, with an abrupt rise in the number of cases in Tripura and a steady increase of infection in Assam.

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and health officials in Manipur attributed the rise in corona cases to the return of people to their homes in the region. In Tripura, the rise is due to infections among the 159 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel of two battalions (86th and 138th) and their family members.

Manipur had reported its first case of coronavirus on March 24 when a 23-year-old woman who returned from the UK tested positive, making it the first case in the northeast region, which is home to only four per cent of the country’’s population.

With no positive case reported from Sikkim and Nagaland, two other northeastern states - Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram - currently have no active cases as two patients, one each in two states, have recovered and discharged from the hospitals.

On May 1, Assam with 42 positive cases and one death was leading in the corona cases in the northeastern region. But on Sunday (May 17), Tripura leads the tally with 167 of the total cases, among which 101 are active, followed by Assam with 96 (51 active and two deaths), Meghalaya 13 (1 active and 1 dead) and Manipur with seven cases, of which five are active cases.

All the latest five coronavirus-infected people, including three women, returned to Manipur from Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

According to the health officials in Guwahati, the lone corona patient from Nagaland, a trader, who had been admitted to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) on April 12 after he tested positive. The patient was released from the GMCH earlier this month after he recovered from the dreaded virus.

The Nagaland government continues to maintain that there is no positive case in the state, while the Assam government’’s coronavirus update makes no mention of the 33-year-old trader’’s case either.

Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh held several meetings through video link with senior North Eastern Council (NEC) officers and officials of northeastern states as well representatives of different government bodies and public sector units.

Singh, appreciating the steps of the state governments of the region in dealing with the COVID-19 management, had on April 27 declared five of the eight northeast states -- Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura -- coronavirus-free after the patients of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura recovered from the disease.

Meanwhile, for the past four-days, the three-member central team continued their study about the coronavirus infection among the BSF troopers and their kin, visiting 86th and 138th Battalion headquarters in Ambassa, 82 km north of Agartala, on Sunday and different parts of Dhalai district, including India-Bangladesh bordering areas.

The central team, led by G.K. Medhi, Professor and Head of the Department of Community Medicine, of the Shillong-based North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, is studying the source and other aspects of the coronavirus infection among troopers, officials and their family members.

Once a malaria-prone northeastern region, home to 45.58 million populations (2011 census), is facing a major challenge as hundreds and thousands of stranded people are started returning to their homes by train, buses and other vehicles.

“Inadequate testing facilities in the entire NE region, insufficient or poor health infrastructure, topographical positions and poor communication systems made the situation more difficult for the authorities,” renowned health administrator in Guwahati Sushanta Barua told IANS over phone.

The health and civil administration officials and ministers in the region while talking with IANS are concerned about the daily spike in Covid-19 positive cases in Assam, Tripura and Manipur as a huge number of people are entering into the region from other parts of the country where they were stranded since the lockdown was first imposed on March 25.

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