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Peren emerging poster boy in COVID-19 battle with community initiative

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Bad Management caused outbreak and chaos

Kallol Dey
DIMAPUR, JULY 29: Community response and resilience have Peren scripting a mood uplifting story amidst the COVID-19 gloom. From being one of the worst affected districts – the situation compounded by ugly altercations – Peren has fought back with people’s support to record the best recovery stats, among the affected districts.
Bad management and mostly improper segregation caused the outbreak and protests in the district but Peren has fought back and the situation is under control, claims Dr. Tumda Newme, Convenor of the Peren district Joint Action Committee for COVID-19, while dwelling on the initial chaos.
The JAC, which has been at the forefront of protests and has been assisting the Government machinery, is made up of Peren-based civil societies, faith-based organizations, and NGOs.
The latest Health & Family Welfare Department update, at the time of filing of this story, puts Peren’s recovered cases at 222 – Dimapur reported 167 and Kohima 127 cases of recovery of COVID positive patients. Peren’s report card has been regularly reflecting the high count of recoveries over the past 1 week, a far cry from the spike in positive cases, and chaos that had gripped the district earlier in the month of June. In June, Nagaland reported its highest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases with 69 new infections on the 22nd of the month, up from the highest 1-day spike of 26 cases of June 12. Out of the 69, 65 cases were reported from the quarantine centres in Peren.
According to Health officials, the first spurt of positive cases in Peren were from among the returnees from Chennai, who had initially tested negative while in quarantine in Dimapur. In the first week of June, Peren witnessed an uproar when a returnee who had tested positive was sent from Dimapur along with others who had tested negative.
Peren drew a lot of flak as the returnees, domicile to the district were reported for indiscipline and violation of quarantine protocols. The situation turned ugly with returnees rebelling and people protesting on the streets demanding action against erring doctors and against the administration. Even Opposition Leader TR Zeliang had appealed to the Chief Minister for his personal intervention with the situation in Peren looking grim.
What Transpired in Peren
Convenor of the Peren district Joint Action Committee for COVID-19, Dr. Tumda Newme said that the initial spread of the virus was largely due to bad management, especially improper segregation of returnees.
“We can’t say our boys and girls were the most disciplined among the returnees – they did misbehave, we accept that. But on the other hand, timely segregation was not done which was the major reason of protest by the returnees. The other factor behind the returnees getting agitated was that improper segregation increased their quarantine period.”
Reliable sources in the Medical Department informed that it was the failure on the part of management in ensuring lack of proper segregation, not just in Peren but all over the state. Nagaland Page has independently ascertained that at least a few returnees are undergoing quarantine for a longer period even after testing negative due to improper segregation. Moreover, in Peren, proper segregation was not possible due to lack of facilities like the absence of separate toilets, etc.
Dr. Newme disclosed that some returnees have tested negative 6 to 7 times but still could not be sent home due to improper segregation. “Some have been lodged in quarantine centres for more than 2 months.” Largely improper management and lack of proper dissemination of information to the returnees about their medical status, impending tests or release from the QCs had contributed to the agitations.
The first instance of positive case in Peren was when a woman who had tested positive was sent back from Dimapur to Peren along with 16 others who tested negative, and later the Haryana returnees were sent home despite history of contact with positive cases. “They (Haryana returnees) were mistakenly sent home without ascertaining their current status,” Dr. Newme informed.
District Surveillance Officer (IDSP) Dr. Hedungkiebe sounded upbeat about the status of COVID-19 cases in Peren when Nagaland Page contacted him. “We have made a good turnaround. Recovery and discharge rates are high and we expect better news in the coming weeks.”
Dr. Hedungkiebe, who was shifted from Kiphire and posted in Peren on July 9, claimed that the battle against the pandemic was made tough with returnees violating protocol. “This being my home district, I have seen first-hand how some of our returnees misbehaved,” but he acknowledged that there were loopholes and lack of proper management initially which added to the woes.
According to the DSO, people (returnees) are still coming but everything is being done following due protocol and through proper channels. “Dimapur district helped us with the last batch of returnees from Bengaluru by putting them in quarantine there, and that eased our burden.” He accepted that there was bad coordination with Dimapur earlier but “it’s good now, although even the Dimapur district team is overworked and under pressure.”
He lauded the Joint Action Committee for proactively assisting the Medical Department and administration in containing the situation. “Besides donating confirmation test kits to the Department, the JAC has been of great help in managing the returnees too and that has immensely helped us.”
“We were sending samples for RT-PCR to Kohima, but recently the JAC donated 60 confirmation test chips for TrueNAT which has helped us make good progress.”
The JAC is apparently also ready to donate 400 more screening or confirmation test kits, as per the requirements of the Department in the event of local transmission or community spread when vigorous testing would be needed. The test kits have been purchased by the JAC with donations from well wishers. TR Zeliang, whose home district is Peren, had donated the first TrueNAT machine to the Peren Covid Hospital early in June.
Bad Healthcare Facilities
The JAC Convenor rued that the healthcare facilities in Peren district remains the same, whether before the pandemic or now. “We have been sounding our concerns to the Government about the condition of medical infrastructure.”
“A high power committee headed by an IAS officer visited Peren on July 9 after our agitation and regarding our demands for better health facilities. They made a commitment that a technical committee will be set up and the Government will do whatever is practical to remedy the situation,” Dr. Newme informed. But till date, after the lapse of 20 days, the committee has not been set up.
Moreover, he also informed that in normal times, Government doctors were mostly not in station (in Peren). “They are either stationed in Kohima or Dimapur, despite their place of posting being in Peren, and report for duty once a month on a rotation basis or whatever that is.”
As for now, the private medical practitioner who is also the President of the Zeme Council of Nagaland is happy with the functioning of the medical team. “The situation looks to be under control. No one can say what is happening sub-clinically, but clinically we don’t see the spread of the virus. But we are ready for any turn of events.”