Realities about Covid 19

Assam saw a spike in Covid cases to 20 on May 19 and reported 13 positive cases on May 20. Meghalaya reported one positive case in Tura on May 19. Assam has the largest number of returnees from outside the state and a good number of them are also from Red and Orange zones. The reality is that Covid is a virus that travels with people. The reality also is that no force on earth and no government state or central can stop people from returning to their respective homes. The travellers returning home include students pursuing professional courses, blue collared workers, professionals and a large chunk from the hospitality sector. Some states have become brands for coaching students to write their entrance exams for JEE, NEET etc. Parents want their children to get to the best institutes and make sacrifices to send their wards to these institutes across the country. Post lockdown the institutions were closed; so too the hostels. These stranded individuals cannot remain outside the state indefinitely under these adverse circumstances. Their parents have been plying the state governments to arrange their homeward travel and they are now returning in batches.

So what is the way forward? It is possible that some returnees may be active or asymptomatic carriers of Covid 19. That is why a strict check at all the entry points to their respective states and districts is imperative. And the respective state governments have been following the necessary protocols. The only difference is that while other states like Assam, Nagaland, Manipur etc., have insisted that all returnees be institutionally quarantined, Meghalaya has allowed home quarantine for those that have passed the thermal screening test. But thermal screening isn’t always effective at detecting early signs of infection. The RT-PCR tests using nasal and throat swabs are supposed to be most effective in detecting the Covid19 virus if taken in the first week of the disease. Later on the virus can disappear in the throat while it continues to multiply in the lungs. For infected people tested in the second week, alternatively sample material can then be taken from the deep airways by suction catheter, or coughed up material (sputum). In one study a positive test result was highest at week one (100%), followed by 89.3%, 66.1%, 32.1%, 5.4% and zero by week six. Hence testing for returnees must necessarily be robust and no chances should be taken by allowing home quarantine. But returnees cannot expect five-star facilities in institutional quarantine facilities. Families of returnees should cooperate with Government and the respective village authorities to contain the spread of Covid 19.

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