BSF personnel to undergo mandatory tests on arrival

No-test-at-entry rule withdrawn for troopers

SHILLONG: Meghalaya’s COVID hotspot — the sprawling BSF campus at Umpling — which is causing serious concern among officials and public alike, has been designated as a containment zone with a slew of accompanying protocols.
Anxious to get a grip over the rapidly escalating number of coronavirus positive cases emanating from BSF establishment, Chief Secretary MS Rao held a meeting here on Friday with the IG BSF, Kuldeep Saini.
Later Rao told this scribe that the meeting took a closer look at the factors leading to the alarming situation and decided that the special dispensation for the armed forces for no-test-at-entry stood withdrawn for BSF personnel. Henceforth all BSF men coming in from outside the state will be subjected to the same strict testing and quarantine protocols as civilians.
On arrival at the Byrnihat or other entry check gate of Meghalaya, they would have to go through mandatory tests and kept in government institutional quarantine centres until the test results were out and the 14-day mandatory quarantine was over. “They will not be allowed quarantine inside the barracks any more”, he said.
According to Rao, the reason for the contagion is that the BSF personnel were under quarantine inside the camps where toilets and other facilities are mostly shared and by the time they were tested positive, they had already infected a large number of their colleagues.
“Right now no one is allowed to enter or exit the Umpling BSF campus. Even the IG himself is presently locked in” Rao added
Rao said that most of the BSF personnel have already come in from their vacation or leave and about 100 more are in transit. These personnel will be subjected to strict State protocols to prevent any contagion.
The chief secretary further clarified that it would be wrong to surmise that all those that tested positive had come from outside. The spread was mostly within the barracks because of the common living areas inside the barracks and sharing of toilets and other facilities.
Henceforth, all rations for the BSF personnel at Umpling will be delivered by the district administration at the BSF gate so that they don’t need to come to the local markets.
Our Reporter adds: A top official of the BSF while speaking to this reporter said that so far around 300-350 BSF personnel had come back to the state in the last one month.
The statement assumes significance as close to 100 BSF personnel in the state have been infected with the virus in the last few.
According to officials, though a huge chunk of BSF men have come back, around 10-15 more men were scheduled to arrive in the state.
“However, we have passed a message to them not to come back right now,” the official said.
It was also informed that no posting or transfer orders will be implemented this year and there will be no change over of battalions and hence no movement will take place.
When asked how the BSF was trying to contain the virus, he said that the BSF had thinned out the office staff in the campus. “We are working with bare minimum staff and most of the staff are working from home. Besides, we have already stopped contacts with the civilian population,” he informed.
Directives to BSF
The state government, meanwhile, has issued a circular with a set of directions to be followed by the BSF authorities to contain the further spread of COVID-19.
The notification states that the East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner will consider the BSF campus alone as a containment zone and restrict the movement of any person to and from the campus.
The DC will coordinate with the nodal officer (one each from Umpling and Mawpat campus) appointed by the IG, BSF for arranging supply of essential commodities in tandem with other campuses of BSF.
The IG, BSF will constitute an internal medical committee to coordinate with the Health department in terms of managing the spread and clinical protocol.
The IG, BSF will have to identify suitable locations within the campus to keep the positive patients isolated from those who have tested negative and are under quarantine. The BSF internal medical committee will coordinate with the State IDSP for any requirement of protective gears, VTMs, Rapid Antigen Test etc. The BSF committee will have to share the data of those who have returned, tested and awaiting results from time to time with the State IDSP.
Furthermore, the BSF returnees have to mandatorily pre-register before their entry into the state so that their testing and quarantine processes can be monitored.

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