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Nagaland fears more COVID-19 positive case from returnees

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COVID-19 is here to stay, so we have to learn to live with it: CS

Kohima, May 25: Nagaland which had been Green Zone in the fight against novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) now fears of having positive cases with the bringing in of stranded citizens of the state from other parts of the country.
“Nagaland is at a very crucial stage because so far we were ‘GREEN’ but with the coming in of thousands of stranded citizens from other parts of the country we don’t know what will happen,” said Chief Secretary Temjen Toy while interacting with media persons here.
“We could have easily said since we are in the Green Zone and with no movement of people in the rural we could open those areas, but with this issue of people coming in, we do not know how many will turn out to be positive,” he said.
This is one of the reasons why we have not taken a call on opening of schools, opening of rural areas and also intra-state movement of vehicles and people, he said.
The Chief Secretary while affirming that ‘COVID-19 is here to stay’, recalled the initial days of HIV/AIDS breakout in the early 90s in Nagaland saying that the infected people were discriminated and stigmatized to the extent of not allowing burial of people who died of AIDS. The kind of panic created that time was extreme but today also we have people living with AIDS and the numbers are more than those days, he said.
In this, Toy said with COVID around does not mean we have to keep ourselves locked up and wait for COVID to go.
“It is here and we have to learn how to live with it by taking the precautions at the individual and institution levels,” he said.
“There should not be any undue fear about COVID-19 as long as we are taking the precautions… the time for panic is over and we have to get serious to begin to live with COVID,” Toy conveyed.
On the accommodation facilities in the quarantine centers, he said Dimapur and Kohima has about 6000 bed facilities while the rest of the districts are also comfortable.
Interesting thing to note is most of the returnees are from Dimapur, Mon and Peren districts compared to other districts, he said while saying that the respective Deputy Commissioners have asserted that they have made enough arrangement at the quarantine centers.
Government does not require approval of each and every organization
Asked about the appeals being made by various civil societies of Dimapur and Kohima districts to send the returnees to their respective districts for quarantine instead of holding them in this two districts, Toy said, “government does not require the stamp of approval of each and every organization”.
It is being observed that any measure being adopted by the government, there are diametrically opposite views for and against, he said adding that the government cannot function seeking approval from each and every organizations.
“We take decisions after going through all the nitty-gritty and details on what is best,” he said.
On being asked as to why returnees were not directly send to the respective districts for quarantine despite the claims of all the districts task force being well equipped with quarantine centers, he said “the returnees will be send to their own respective districts, but since the first train load has come and that too from a red zone, it’s a matter of assuming that some of them might be positive. Therefore, we cannot not let them simply disappear into the districts, he said while also citing difficulties of contact tracing once they go to their respective districts.
“So we are carrying out checking of symptomatic and asymptomatic persons and also with the functioning of BSL-3 lab in Kohima, we have decided to conduct pool testing of all the returnees,” he said.
Everyone returning from outside the state will be tested for COVID-19 within the quarantine period, he said.
While saying that the government has also arranged hotels as paid quarantine centers, Toy clarified that those returnees not wanting to stay in the government provided facilities can stay in the hotels by paying for themselves.
He asserted even if the returnees stay in their own paid arrangements, they are put under the surveillance of the department.
More special trains arranged for AP, Bangalore & Delhi
On the arrangement of special trains to bring back stranded citizens of the State in other parts of the Country, he said Chennai to Dimapur was the first train while the next special train is being arranged to bring people from Bangalore by May 31 and then depending on the load the third one would be from Delhi.
He said the special train from Gurugram in Haryana, which reached today, was arranged by the Government of Haryana for the people from North East to return to respective states and not by Nagaland government. Similarly, he informed that Government of Andhra Pradesh is also arranging a special train to send back the people of North East, where about 100 Nagas are expected to return in next 3 days.
He said that people are also returning by road while e-passes have been issued to stranded people of the State in other North Eastern states and Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand while the government of Nagaland will be paying for the buses.
He also asserted that government would also continue to send back the migrant workers stranded in Nagaland.
No call on opening of educational institutions
Reiterating that the government has not taken any call on the opening of conventional educational institutions as of now, he said the school education department has made arrangements to reach out to the students through TV and Radio tutorials and also other social media.
“There is huge risk and we would not like to take any decision in hurry to open the schools,” he said.
On the problem of internet accessibility in the interior areas, he said, private sector internet provider is working to cover the entire state, but due to COVID-19 pandemic the works has slowed down which has resulted in problems of internet access.
On being asked about the education of students of lower classes as the current arrangement is only for Classes 8 and above, he said the department is looking into the welfare of the lower classes too and things would be addressed soon.
One time financial assistance for all residents of Nagaland
On the financial help extended to stranded citizens, Toy said “individual wise no other states have helped as much as Nagaland has done and we are the highest by far”. He said in the first slot about 4000 citizens received the Rs 10,000 one time grant while in the second slot, which opened at 10AM on Saturday while around 10000 have registered declaring to stay back at their respective place.
The registration would go on till 10AM of May 26, he said adding that this is the opportunity for only those who not availed the facility before.
“Government keeping in mind the welfare measures for its citizens is extended the one time financial grant to those deciding to stay back at their current place. He reaffirmed that all measures are being taken so as to avoid duplication of beneficiaries and also fraudsters.
“This time we are learning a lot about our own people as some tried to apply for the grant even as they were working and getting regular salaries while some who were not eligible had also applied and there are people who tried to avail the benefit by manipulating Aadhaar cards,” he said. “The scheme is open for all the residents of Nagaland and not specific for Nagas alone,” he said.
Govt readying to submit affidavit on COVID cess
Meanwhile, on the PIL filed in the Gauhati High Court Kohima Bench against COVID-19 cess on petroleum, diesel and other motor spirit items, Toy said that the government will file its affidavit before the scheduled date, which is June 3 next.
“We consciously we decided not to impose any other tax but name it as COVID-19 cess because the amount generated would be used only for the purpose of fighting the pandemic and once it is declared normal the cess would also be removed,” he said.
He said that day to day calculation is not done on the amount collected since imposition of COVID-19 cess but it would be done on quarterly basis.
(Page News Service)

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