Views & Reviews
The Challenge Nagaland Faces
The dates quoted here are based mostly on the information which was published by the local papers. The GOI declared the novel Corona Virus Disease 2019 which was coined by World Health Organisation (WHO) as COVID-19 as ‘notified disaster’ on the 14th March, 2020 and was publicised the next day, the 15th March, 2020. Following which the few sensitive NGOs urged the Govt. of Nagaland to initiate preventive measures. On the 17.3.2020, the State Govt. ordered for closure of schools which was the right decision. However, except the thermal screening of the incoming travellers at Dimapur Airport, the Train Station and the Inter-State Bus Terminal through which maximum incoming travellers used to come daily were left free without monitoring. Whereas, the neighbouring States including Assam have started preventive measures on the movements of people at entry point. Till this period the State Govt. was dependent on creation of awareness of the pandemic through mere poster campaign at Train Station and Bus Terminal. The bigger flaw was allowing the foreigners to visit Nagaland without restriction as not less than 383 foreigners visited Nagaland by air and by train from 1st January till March 16, 2020 and this figure excludes those who came by road. Those visitors were from the disease infected countries although whether any of the visitors were the virus carrier or not was unknown since the train or vehicle passengers were not checked.
On 18.3.2020, the concerned authority announced that the Police personnel will be trained on how to use the thermal screening test gadget to check the incoming travellers. Beside, ‘the health unit personnel’ working under Dr. Matthew Thomas perhaps commanding a task force against the COVID-19 divulged it to press that masks for the health employees have been ordered. If this information is correct, it is pathetic to observe how the Health department is so casual in handling the situation.
On the 19.3.2020, the Chief Medical Officer based in Dimapur received 10 nos. of Thermal Screening machine with which the three major entry points at Dilai gate, Dimapur Railway Station and New Field Check gate are now reportedly placed under monitoring. The Nagaland Health Department also announced to those of Nagaland citizens who landed in the State from outside since March 1, 2020 to contact certain contact numbers is considered lagging behind time. Should anyone infected with the virus reach home without detection during the last 18 days, such person could become the epicentre. Such basic and important guidelines should have been disseminated widely much in advance. The local media pointed out that Health Department failed to issue guidelines for the safety of People Living with HIV(PLHIV), sex workers, MSM/TG and People who inject Drugs(PWD) as the same amount of attention has to be paid to those sections. Initially it was very surprising and discouraging to hear (unofficial) that the Health Department has hardly 10 or 11 ventilators for the whole State of Nagaland. Against the backdrop, the Medical Director announced that such equipments as protective suits and masks are being procured.
On the 20.3.2020, the State Govt. has invoked the Nagaland Epidemic Disease (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 for the whole of Nagaland w.e.f. March 18, 2020. Accordingly, the Health Department has issued clearer instructions for the public to abide by it. On the 21.3.2020, the Health Department issued directives to private business establishments as shops and restaurants to maintain hygiene for commuters.
All said and done, the State Govt. actions are in the best interest of every citizen. The public discipline is the better weapon against the COVID-19. We can prevent the disease from invading our State only through concerted effort called self restraint while practicing the given guidelines.
The terrible COVID-19 has overwhelmed the world with tsunami devastation. The impact has wrested the most richest and sophisticated nations helplessly. Those nations with the advancements in health care, science and technology are found struggling to the rippling waves of the COVID-19 when the nations were perhaps caught either in their over-confidence or in their slumber. Dr. Tedros Adhanon, the Chief of WHO called upon the nations to his slogan Test, Test and Test in order to arrest the disease.
All the preventive and restrictive measures undertaken by the Health Department of Nagaland so far are essential indeed. Provided that the report of the same Department that till the 24th of March, 2020 there is none who is infected with the fearful virus. Nevertheless, the Health department has sent only one sample for test which was found negative as per local media. My sincere concern is how the nodal authorities are meticulously monitoring the vulnerable section of the citizens. If those who are supposed to undergo proper test of the disease are not roped in to have the test, how one can be sure that there is no positive case in Nagaland till 24th March, 2020 or after. Issuing directive by the authorities behind time is a matter of concern. A victim of the virus will have the double burden on the question of survival and the social stigma due to which one may not readily oblige to respond to those given guidelines lest the law is applied.
Despite the sincere efforts of the monitoring authority, if Nagaland can still be confident of having no such positive case so far, we thank God. Nevertheless, there is a sea of difference in respect of the moral confidence of the general public as for Nagaland has no COVID-19 patient and Nagaland too has one. In my opinion, the Health Department cannot afford to conceal the fact and misguide the people of the State. I believe the Health Department’s declaration that Nagaland has no positive case, and yet it should not hesitate to divulge the fact. In the event of Nagaland detecting a single positive case, it will send shocking wave which I expect will greatly improve the public discipline, and therefore such case must not be withheld.
The PDA ministry is not solely responsible for the shortages of medical facilities in Nagaland. The previous successive Govts. too failed to build the requisite infrastructures. Let me reiterate what I had already vented out at this juncture in the interest of the public. The Health and Medical Department has its history of preferring to make huge investments on both expensive and useless items by which the buyer could squeeze maximum honey out of it. The Assembly Committees used to find that those expensive equipments were allowed to rot in the store for want of technician to operate or those useless items to become waste while the healthcare centres were made to suffer from want of cheap life saving drugs, plaster, cotton, etc. The Department being bifurcated with maximum manpower today, is expected to perform better and yet the old fashion seems to have been maintained.
Now we all know the reason why the death toll of COVID-19 in Italy has doubled the figure of the death toll in China is due to lack of treatment beds. For instance, against 42 beds in a hospital, there are few thousand patients in the queue. This is our lesson. Few of the harsh realities are highlighted in local media dated 24.3.2020, and thus our hospitals are not equipped with facilities to accommodate the infected persons for isolated treatment. The physicians and the nurses may not have protective equipments to go and treat the patients because those kits are not fetching good profit margin for the buyers. The District Hospital Dimapur is without ICU facility and it is only with just 10 beds in isolation ward. Yet, the Naga Christian voters used to consider those who could destroy the basic public amenities preferable. Has the Health Department prepared adequate rooms for quarantine in the event of the eruption of the pandemic in Nagaland? I am afraid that the unfortunate victims of COVID-19 may have to avoidably face death due to two reasons: the lack of timely treatment and the virus.
Look at our neighbours. Meghalaya has one virus testing laboratory, Manipur has 2, Tripura has one and Assam has 4. 57 years is Nagaland’s age and we are still shamelessly dependent on the younger States barring Assam for testing the samples of the diseases without having a single laboratory. What has happened to Kohima District hospital and how many years more should it take to complete it? What has happened to the new Kohima High Court? 57 years is our age, and Nagaland Police is yet to establish a Forensic laboratory perhaps for want of sufficient fund and yet it has no dearth of fund to spend on testing the requisite evidences in the laboratories belonging to other States. Who has ruined Nagaland? Its the greedy voters. When are we, the Naga Christians, going to learn our lessons and realise?