Lifting lockdown: Docs fear fallout while health dept claims to be prepared

Staff Reporter
ITANAGAR, Apr 26: As the state government has started to ease the lockdown, which is likely to end on 3 May, there is visible unrest among the doctors on the ground, despite the health & family welfare department’s claims of being prepared against Covid-19.
Doctors fear that positive but asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19, especially among those from red zones and hotspots, might enter the state once the lockdown is lifted.
“We wanted the lockdown to be continued, especially in the capital complex, as there is fear of a positive case or an asymptomatic carrier entering the state. If that happens, the whole vigil and hard work of the medical teams and the police personnel would have been futile,” said Dr Lobsang Tsetim, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Arunachal chapter (IMA-AP).
According to health experts, there is a high risk of people who have contracted Covid-19 – especially people who are associated with supplying essential commodities – entering the state. They said there was a report that a few vehicles carrying vegetables from Assam were let inside Arunachal without being properly sanitized.
“Unless we test enough number of people, it would be difficult to say if we are free from Covid-19. Who knows, there may be some asymptomatic carriers roaming around without knowing that they are infecting other people,” said a doctor at Ramakrishna Mission Hospital in Itanagar.
In a representation to the chief minister, the IMA-AP sought extension of the lockdown upto 13 May, claiming that there is still a high risk of infection spreading from asymptomatic carriers.
The IMA-AP stated that lifting the lockdown without having antibody test kits (for screening) and RT-PCR (confirmatory test) facilities would be catastrophic.
“Strict vigilance and screening at the check gates should be mandatory. There should not be high-handedness and interference with the entry. Let the medical team and police personnel at the check posts do their duty with full freedom,” Dr Tsetim said, adding that “callousness could jeopardize the whole hard work.”
There are also reports of massive rush of non-Covid-19 patients. Many cancer, trauma, kidney, cardiac, etc, patients are facing hardship due to the lockdown.
When contacted, Health Secretary P Parthiban said, “We are fully prepared.”
He informed that all those entering Arunachal after 3 May would be housed at quarantine centres for 14 days, and the symptomatic ones would have to undergo RT-PCR tests. Wearing of facemasks is already mandatory.
Parthiban said medical equipment, such as ventilators, PPE, N95 masks and three ply masks “are available in sufficient quantities, and the virology laboratory at TRIHMS will be commissioned within weeks.”
Highlighting the state’s preparedness, the health secretary informed that the 300-bedded Covid-19 hospital (TRIHMS) and the 50-bedded hospital in East Siang HQ Pasighat are ready for any critical patients.
“All health workers are trained for meeting any exigencies,” he said.
It is understood that a quarantine centre with the capacity to house 2500 persons is being prepared at the police training centre (PTC) in Banderdewa. The centre will also have an antibody testing facility, a swab collection facility, a ‘Covid care centre’, and quarantine facility, along with 24×7 police security.
So far five people – two males and three females – are under quarantine at the PTC quarantine centre.
It is also learnt that three APSTS buses have been pressed into service for transporting students to their respective districts after screening.
Meanwhile, sources at a quarantine centre informed that two students who were reportedly coming from Shillong (Meghalaya) tried to enter Arunachal on Saturday. There is another report of a student coming from Hyderabad, via Guwahati, who tried to enter Arunachal with her mother on the pretext of being her mother’s attendant.
“As Assam has relaxed intra-district movement, people are taking advantage of the situation and, on the pretext of travelling to Lakhimpur and Gohpur, are somehow reaching and trying to avoid quarantine. So, this is worrying,” said an official of the quarantine centre.
“The health department and the district administration are fully prepared. The only worrying issue is the people’s reluctance to be put under quarantine, and they are going to try their best to avoid it by hook or by crook,” he added.