Once again, Manipur's Thoubal district has become the vortex of the novel Coronavirus outbreak and the district administration has closed down all the markets in the district indefinely, while advising residents to remain indoors. Indefinite curfew has also been imposed in the district. Only yesterday, with one Gram Rozgar Sewak (GRS) and representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institute (PRI) in Thoubal testing positive for COVID-19, the Deputy Commissioner had ordered closure of all banks and post offices in the district for the public till July 26.
In the early Covid-19 days, Manipur’s second Covid-19 positive case came in the form of a Tablighi Jamaat returnee in Lilong area, forcing the government to lockdown large areas of Lilong into a containment zone. After his recovery and that of London returnee girl, the state was declared Covid-19 free. Showers of praises were heaped on the state Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, while news channels and major newspapers competed among themselves for an interview. And a temporary lull followed. However, with the return of state natives, the number of positive cases began to slowly build up. On Tuesday the number of positive cases has crossed 2,000 mark. Furtunately, no one has died as a result of the virus so far.
Meanwhile, the recovery rate of Covid-19 positive cases is pegged at 68 per cent. For this, we have to thank our committed and competent doctors and nurses, besides other frontline health workers. We are indeed fortunate that, for a small state like ours, we have very good health infrastructure and good doctors, both in public and private sector. Besides, the state government is also not lacking in terms of encouragement. It had announced incentives for these frontline doctors and workers, when the first recoveries came. Besides monetary incentives, these frontline doctors and workers need constant encouragement and counselling.
Coming back to Thoubal district, we need to ask ourselves whether curfew and complete lockdown is the answer. The general public have had enough of lockdown and curfews.
The lockdown and curfew situation is affecting every aspect of life in the state. Students have been orphaned, businesses are suffering, poor and needy people, including daily wagers, are starving and living on handouts. Yes, the closure of main markets in Imphal Khwairamband has greatly helped keeping in check the spread of the virus. But, it cannot go on indefinitely.
As restrictions began phasing out, markets in rural areas were allowed to open. But, fresh vegetables find few takers in the rural markets as most villagers grow their own food and so, majority of them come to Imphal and vend their goods in various parts of the city. Many of these vegetable vendors are from Thoubal district. Now that, curfew have been imposed there will naturally be restrictions in inter district movement. Yet, they will find ways to evade police patrols and reach Imphal with their vegetables. And people in Imphal will flock to these temporary Covid markets.
So, the time has come for health officials to come clean with the facts of the emerging situation, instead of juggling with jargons related to Covid-19, like ‘local transmission’ and ‘community transmission’ to confuse the general public. Covid-19 is here to stay, and transmission from persons with no travel history has begun. The public can accept that, as there is nowhere to run. Let us simplify things.