Tripura saw the discharge of its second and last COVID-19 patient this weekend; with that there are no active cases in the State. Chief Minister Biplab Deb discusses the unique challenges faced by the border State. Excerpts:
The actual load of cases in Tripura has been low, with both positive cases having recovered. Yet the State has been put under lockdown. Why?
Our State has become coronavirus-free with the blessings of Mata Tripura Sundari and by properly following the guidelines prescribed by Honourable Prime Minister Shri Naredra Modi ji. We are thankful to the citizens of Tripura for extending their cooperation and support by obeying the social distancing norms and other guidelines. I also congratulate all the health professionals and other frontline warriors for rendering their dedicated service during the pandemic. The government of Tripura had taken preventive measures, including announcement of lockdown, well before the other States. Our government had declared the lockdown on March 23 along with curfew. We had started screening in airports and integrated checkposts since January 29. We are the first State in the country to impose prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Cr.P.C on March 16. The goal behind this advance step was to ensure social distancing for preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus and definitely, the plan worked to a great extent. We are fortunate that only two positive cases have been reported and both the patients have already recovered making the State coronavirus-free. We are continuing with the lockdown since the country-wide lockdown is in force as it been most effective in combating COVID-19 so far. Though we have given relaxation in some sectors in compliance with Central guidelines, I request everyone to maintain social distancing and follow government guidelines till May 3. I have also urged the citizens, especially those on borders, to keep a close watch to ensure zero infiltration from Bangladesh.
I have also urged people residing in bordering villages to cooperate with security agencies to ensure no influx.
I must add that we have eased some restrictions for industry, small-time traders, shops dealing with essential commodities and work in construction sites in compliance with advisory of the Central government.
Tripura, like other States in the northeastern region, depends on connectivity with the rest of the country for a lot of supplies. Has that been a challenge with the suspension of flights?
Tripura is getting essential supplies through cargo flights. There is no dearth of essential supplies in the State. Cargo flights have been landing in Agartala. The essential food items are being distributed to families in need and daily wagers. All departments are providing essential services as mentioned in the consolidated guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Other essential public services are being provided at full strength. These departments include health, power, drinking water, municipal services, police, home guards, civil defence, fire services, prisons, revenue & relief, agriculture & allied activities, fisheries, forest, industry & commerce, labour, rural development & panchayat, food & civil supplies, district administration & treasury, social welfare & education, among others. So there is no such problem.
The State borders Bangladesh and has an active land port there. What is the situation for trade, etc.?
The State government has allowed trade facilities as per MHA guidelines. We have allowed operation in industrial establishments, involved in manufacturing essential commodities. We have allowed necessary trade activities with social distancing and other hygiene measures. We have already declared that industrial establishments are exempt from the lockdown and can continue to operate. We have allowed manufacturing units of essential commodities and also production units that require continuous process. Despite the challenges and concerns about public health, we are working to ensure that our unavoidable obligations to neighbours are fully met.
The lockdown period has also been used by States to build capacity for quarantine, hospital beds and ventilators. What is the status in Tripura?
The State government is very concerned regarding this core area of medical supply and arrangements. We have been procuring ventilators, personal protection equipment (PPE) and alcohol-based hand sanitisers in good capacity. To boost the morale of medical professionals, we have committed to provide jobs to families of doctors, nurses and health staff, if they die in the line of duty while dealing with coronavirus patients. We have earlier announced a ₹4 lakh life insurance cover for the frontline workers. I have asked people to carry the ‘jal gamcha’ (towel) on their shoulders at all times during the lockdown. We all have the ‘jal gamcha’ in our homes. Masks are a must for the doctors, health and paramedical staff. Also, it is not possible to provide masks to 40 lakh people in the State. Tripura has 126 isolation beds, 11 ventilators and 457 quarantine facilities with beds.
To deal with any eventuality, the State government has prepared a dedicated 40-bed COVID-19 treatment centre in GBP Hospital and Agartala Government Medical College. Besides, another 30-bed COVID-19 health centre has been set up in IGM Hospital.