Cheers to our Tangkhul Co-ordination Forum of COVID-19

Dr Th Suresh Singh *

 Institutional/Community quarantine centre at Ukhrul on July 02 2020
Institutional/Community quarantine centre at Ukhrul on July 02 2020 :: Pix - Mungchan Zimik / TSE

While Delhi is barking under the sun with the opening of DRDO created 10,000 bedded largest COVID hospital in just 11 days, many important things are happening in this far flung corner.

Tangkhul Co-ordination Forum of COVID19 : It is a confederation formed by 15 different NGOs, including many women, students, religious and local leaders. Under this apex body, every village has a Village Quarantine Centre (VQC) developed and run by Tangkhul Naga Community at Manipur’s easternmost 2 districts of Ukhrul and Kamjong.

What is this Village Quarantine Centre (VQC) ? These Tangkhul NGOs are one of the most powerful and active NGOs of the state of Manipur fighting for justice in every facet of the society. In case of Corona, it came up with the development of VQC, 1 each for every village situated at the 2 districts mentioned above.

It is entirely created, run and maintained by the community by self contribution and seeking donations from the affordable including local MLAs. I am told that the families of the returnees also contribute a major share to this.

In these centres, Covid patients or returnees who completed 14 day quarantine at Government maintained Institutions/QCS/paid QCs etc. and discharged by the authority, are again kept for another 14 day Community Quarantine under the strict surveillance of the concerned village community.

After this, another 7 day home quarantine is enforced by the community. Thus the total quarantine period is 35 days (14+14+7). This is in short triple quarantine or 3 layer quarantine enforced by the community to make sure 100% protection from Corona. Though it is time consuming, it is worth study material.

Recent happenings : Around 17 June last, 10 returnees who were kept at Govt. QCs and completed 14 days quarantine are discharged without knowing their test results. They were transferred to 1 such community centre.

This particular one is managed by Tangkhul Naga Long, 1 among the 15 NGOs mentioned above. Later on they were found +ve and taken back to Govt. QCs for treatment and for further quarantine. There was a hue and cry for this in media and others.

Another confused test status of 25 returnees belonging to Ukhrul district mentioned above is also seen. Their samples were collected on 22nd and 23rd June by our prestigious RIMS, a medical college under Central Govt. On June 26, their test results are declared as –ve. However, next day i.e. on June 27, another result came out which tagged them as +ve.

By the time the 2nd result came, all the 25 returnees are either at different VQCs or at home quarantine under the aegis of the Apex Body “Tangkhul Co-ordination Forum of COVID19” mentioned above. Later on, they were taken back again to Govt. QCs for treatment and further necessary measures.

Not surprised that this Apex body charged the RIMS authority and the state Govt. by issuing a press statement that the 2 authorities would be held responsible for any community transmission, if happens. It further warned not to play with human lives.

 Institutional/Community quarantine centre at Ukhrul on July 02 2020
Institutional/Community quarantine centre at Ukhrul on June 14 2020 :: Pix - Mungchan Zimik / TSE

Services rendered & Its benefit : Had it not been for these CQCs, there would have been 1000s of Covid cases spread by these returnees. 35 cases are enough to spread to 1000s in the community by virtue of high infectivity of Covid19. Then imagine 1000s to many 1000s taking multiplicity rate of Corona (21/2 -3nos. minimum).

The community has saved 1000s of people from the onslaught of this dreaded disease. The fallacy in the test result is the so called false -ve results due to time variation or negligence on the part of the concerned laboratory. These are also happening in other parts of India. Hence, 3 cheers to our Tangkhul brethren, but no cheers either from the state or central government.

Unsung and unrecognised : Many important events took place in our N-E states. Manipur has also many unique history and unique events. These are either ignored or unattended to by the Centre/ central leaders for decades.

No, doubt, with the coming of BJP government in the centre, PM and his team started giving attention to these states and people started appreciating it for good reason. One notable worth mentioning is the monthly visit to Manipur and N-E region by central ministers under the direction of PM Modi.

Coming to the present topic of corona, Manipur has a very strict rule of contact case tracing - one of the best in India and comparable to Kerala and Karnataka model. Because of this, we don’t have community transmission at present, unlike many other Indian cities/places flooded with Community transmission.

Once community spread occurs, it will be uncontrollable in the state as seen in other Indian cities. This topic of Community Transmission has been dealt with extensively in my various letters to PMO and Home Minister. One can have a look at PMO website, if interested.

Hence Manipur’s special contact tracing and these Village Quarantine Centres need special appreciation from the centre. These 2 needs extra publication and extra advertisement by Delhi’s elite media-both printed and audio-visual- for the benefit of the nation. Unfortunately, our own state Government has not given due publicity to these laudable efforts.

No doubt, the state has drawbacks like lack of beds in QCs for the returnees, chaos in testing/less testing, mismanagement in QCs etc. But these were in initial stage as is done everywhere. Lessons have been learned and remedial actions taken by the authority.

Lessons learned from Manipur experience : This also applies to all India. Hard lessons learned are :

i) the state, once free from corona has now 1,435 case at the time of this writing. All are returnees from major big cities of India infested with heavy Corona. Many are from red spot Corona QCs of these cities who underwent mandatory 14 day quarantine. This shows irrelevance of QCs of big cities. One also can ponder how a person in a quarantine zone is allowed to travel without a -ve test certificate. Many corona spikes in N-E states and other parts of India are attributable to this

ii) false –ve test results due to time variation or mistake by the lab experts are very high leading to community spread. For this, in this column, I have recommended 2 times testing, 7 days apart, to avoid this situation.

iii) the chances of cross infection is very high in QCs. It is seen in many QCs of the state. To avoid this, test results be made available within a day or two and +ve ones be kept in a separate wing/ward of the QCs during the mandatory 14 day quarantine. It is a question of sound management.

iv) Manipur Government’s order of discharging returnees who have completed 14 day quarantine, without test results, be scrapped immediately. Many returnees, becoming +ve later on, is due to cross infection in later stage of their 14 day quarantine in the respective QCs. It is an irrevocable proof of cross infection

v) with the 41 +ve cases of police and VDF personnel involved in disembarkment of returnees at Jiribam rail station, there is the need to supply and apply standard PPEs to those involved directly in Corona fight. This includes police personnel, QC staffs, volunteers, media personal etc. in addition to medical staff. They have to be trained and well informed.

Neglect by Delhi elite media : Sorry for my words. But it is true that Delhi national channels and newspapers hardly cover these N-E states. The coverage is minimum – once in a blue moon or so. I can’t fandom the reason. With 6-7 daily flights from Delhi, travel problem is solved.

The other one may be fear-psychosis from the militants - but these media houses have covered J&K regions extensively. So it is also ruled out. Hence, one can’t find the basis for this neglect. I can only appeal and request these media houses for more and more coverage.

Of course, we have individual brilliant journalists and 3 local TV channels. But somehow or the other, they failed to connect with Delhi elites. Manipuris are also to be blamed for this disconnect. Wish I own a tv channel.

Worth to emulate by other community of India : This “Tangkhul Co-ordination Forum of COVID19” is worth to be emulated by other villages of the country. The work is worth-praising. I wish a GOI representative visit these VQCs and study its working. With more and more corona spike daily and becoming at no 3 in Corona count of the world on 6th this month, India needs such innovative ideas.

India urgently needs to revise its strategy to fight Corona infection. Establishing such VQCs at every village of the country is such 1 count among the many. I, however, end with a cautious note that it may not be feasible to apply to urban situation of India.

* Dr Th Suresh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow.
This article was webcasted on July 12 2020 .

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