Over 3.50 lakh returnees take Covid-19 cases in NE India to 2156

Migrant Workers in Train

Guwahati/Agartala/Aizawl, June 2 : The return of 3.50 lakh natives from south and north India has led to a surge in coronavirus cases in the eight northeastern states to 2,156, including 1,623 active cases till Tuesday night, ministers and officials said.

Of the eight states of the NE region, only Mizoram was the COVID-19 free state until Monday, but 12 youths including 11 girls, tested positive for nCoV on Tuesday after they arrived in Aizawl from Delhi and Kolkata.

According to the health and home department officials of Assam, since the withdrawal of the inter-state restrictions by the union Home Ministry on May 4, around 2.50 lakh people returned to Assam from 14 states taking the coronavirus patients tally to 1,513 in Assam. Health and home department officials in the other seven northeastern states said that already over one lakh residents have returned to Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim and at least two lakh more are expected to return to these states.

Once a malaria-prone region, home to 45.58 million people (2011 census), the northeast is facing a major challenge as hundreds and thousands of stranded people are returning to their homes by train, buses, aircraft and other means.

On May 18, Meghalaya after Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram became the 5th Covid-19-free state out of the eight northeastern states as the state’s lone corona patient, a woman, recovered from the dreaded disease. But, in the past two weeks, with the return of over 3.50 lakh residents, the scenario changed in the northeastern region, which lacks an adequate and modern health infrastructure.

Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that besides the attendees at the Tablighi Jamaat event in Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi, the return of a huge number of people are the main reasons for the spike in Covid-19 cases in the region. “If the Tablighi Jamaat event and migration of people to the region did not happen, there would be very fewer coronavirus cases in Assam and other northeastern states,” Sarma pointed out.

Giving details, the minister said that Covid-19 patients have mostly been found among the people returning from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and West Bengal. According to Sarma, with 123 Covid-19 positive cases found in the past 24 hours, Assam has so far got 1,513 corona patients, including 1,182 active cases. The first confirmed case was reported in the state on March 31. Four Covid-19 patients, including a 16-year-old girl, have died so far.

According to officials, two of the 33 Assam districts — Kamrup Metro (377) and Golaghat (179) — account for 556 coronavirus patients. While Assam’s main city and commercial hub Guwahati falls in Kamrup Metro, Golaghat district is a major tea growing area and part of the famous Kaziranga National Park in the district.

In Tripura, Tuesday’s 23 new cases took the total to 446, including 163 Border Security Force troopers, officers and their kin. However, the state’s active cases are 270 whereas three cases have migrated to other states.

In all, 106 stranded Indians had returned to Tripura last week from Bangladesh, of which 10 tested positive on Friday and Saturday. After Assam and Tripura, 85 positive cases have so far been found in Manipur, followed by 49 in Nagaland, 27 in Meghalaya, 22 in Arunachal Pradesh, 13 in Mizoram and one in Sikkim.

The governments in the northeastern states have now mandated that those coming from other parts of the country would have to undergo institutional quarantine. No home quarantine would be allowed for the first seven days or till the coronavirus test reports are available.

By Sujit Chakraborty

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])

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