The corona positive cases in Nuapada district is increasing rapidly. The first case was detected in Khariar block of the district on 25 May last and the number suddenly jumped to 54 within one week. Khariar block has the highest number of 35 positive cases. All the cases have been detected in the migrants who were staying in different Temporary Medical Centres (TMC) in quarantine, most of them have returned from Mumbai.
The decision of the government to reduce the duration of institutional quarantine in TMC from 15 to seven days has led to a number of complacencies. The swab test reports which usually arrive after a week, is of no use, as by then the TMC inmates have already been sent back to their homes. If any of their report is found positive, the administration then rushes to the village to get the positive ones back and send them for treatment to a COVID hospital.
As for example, the administration got report of fourteen positive cases late at night on 31 May last. The health personnel and the Sarpanches rushed to the villages after mid night and shifted them immediately to the COVID hospital at Balangir. The next job of health personnel was contact tracing. “We have only two Lab Technicians in Khariar block who are trained in swab collection, who move to different TMCs to do their job. We try to stick to our plan, but the burden unnecessarily increases when the TMC inmates are sent home after seven days. Because the whole family then comes under the screening,” says a health personnel of Khariar CHC.
In most cases, the TMC inmates, who have been found positive had already left the quarantine centres, by the time the administration got their swab testing reports. Not only the health personnel and the field functionaries including the Sarpanches are in trouble in such a situation, the family members of the people, who are found positive also are stigmatized as they face the wrath of their community members. “He must have contaminated his family members and friends who mixed with him during his homestay.” they say expressing fear. “All those who contacted him should be medically tested.” they demand. The chaos in the village remain unsettled till the arrival of block or CHC level officials for counselling and in some cases police is also called to look at such matters.
About 10,814 migrants (out of about 23000 returned till Tuesday) who completed seven days of quarantine in TMCs have been allowed to go home as per the new guidelines issued by the government. As reported by the health officials few of these returnees (approximately 2500) have undergone swab test.
The district administration says that supply of testing kits to the district is very low. “We are collecting very few samples, it is not possible to cover all returnees,” says an official of health department. “The real picture will emerge, if coverage is enhanced”, adds the official.
As per official information, there are 756 TMCs in district with 30,405 beds. Information coming from inmates of TMCs reveal that it is not possible to maintain social distancing norm inside most quarantine centres due to shortage of space. Those who are returning from outside are coming in hoards packed in buses.
The decision to reduce the duration of TMC quarantine to seven days is creating problem for the returnees. They are not allowed by the community members to stay under seven day home quarantine. In most cases it is leading to conflict.
One migrant who stayed in the Khaira TMC in quarantine for seven days was sent for home quarantine for subsequent seven days. When he reached the village, the villagers opposed his entry and advised him to stay in village school for seven days. The man contacted the Sarpanch and the police and requested them to allow TMC quarantine for seven more days. “I don’t have toilet or water facility in my house, the villagers will not allow me to use the water of the pond or hand pump and further, if I stay in quarantine in school, why should my family serve me food in the school,” he asked. The Sarapanch said, that she didn’t have any provision to give him food when he is not staying in the TMC. He was forced to stay in the school, and food/water is being served by his family. In a few other cases the migrants are forced to stay in jungle in temporary huts. Many such complaints of humiliation of returnee migrants are coming from villages.
People have started questioning the reason for declaring lockdown and the need of following the norms of social distancing and 15-day quarantine etc. When the government officials are not maintaining such norms in maintenance of the TMCs and while bringing the migrants back to Odisha, why are they forcing them to do so they ask.
“We have to live with COVID, there is no need to fear, COVID test would be compulsory now on wards even in case of a mere increase of temperature in body” the officials explain, when counseling people in villages.