Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Friday said the protocol adopted by the Meghalaya government to combat the spread of COVID-19 is one of the stringent and finest in the country.
“Our protocol is one of the most stringent. We are following a 3-level of testing and screening (of people for the coronavirus) which include thermal scanner, rapid diagnostic test and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).Therefore, chances of seeing positive case slip is less and I don’t see any reason for us to be panic. I can assure you that the exercise and protocol taken up by the Meghalaya government is one of finest in the country” Sangma told the Assembly.
The chief minister was replying to a motion moved by Nongpoh MLA Mayralborn Syiem and KHNAM MLA Adelbert Nongrum to discuss on the preparedness of the government post lockdown due to COVID-19 in the state.
The motion also seeks to discuss the need to strengthe the health care system for combating COVID-19 and other diseases, to help the farmers and to draw a clear road map for the educational institutions and for uplifting the economic activities in the state.
Informing that the testing capacity in the state has increased from 100 to 400 per day, Conrad said, “We have also started doing pool testing that enables us to increase the testing capacity to 2000 RT-PCR tests per day. The testing capacity of the state would be the biggest in the entire North East region.”
Stating that the government is having a clear strategy to deal with COVID-19, he said our pre-emptive strategy had three components – tracking the transmission chain, strengthening the health systems to meet eventualities and building community capacity.
“We put in place a rigorous system of screening and surveillance for around 24,000 individuals who entered the State before the national lockdown. All individuals who entered the State were made to compulsorily register and were placed under home quarantine,” the CM added.
He said starting May 5, steps are being taken for massive evacuation program for bringing back stranded Meghalayans from all corners of the country and around 7,500 people have been brought back until today.
“We have put in place a coherent protocol for all stranded individuals returning to the State. Every individual returning to the State needs to pre-register themselves and go through a mandatory scanning at the designated entrypoints in the State,” he added.
He said for citizens returning from the north-east, symptomatic individuals are being tested using Rapid Diagnostic Test kits at the health check-up kiosk. In case, of a negative test they are sent home for quarantine, along with their families for a period of 14 days.
In case of positive result, a confirmatory test is done using RT-PCR and only those who are confirmed negative on the test are sent home for quarantine along with their families.
For citizens returning from outside the North Eastern states, he said, “it is mandatory to undergo testing at the entry points irrespective of symptoms. We are now doing both Rapid and RT-PCR tests on individuals returning to the State from outside the North Eastern region. Only those, who are tested negative are sent to home for quarantine along with their families. Therefore, there is rigorous testing protocol in place before individuals are sent for home quarantine.”
He said the government has created systems for ensuring that home quarantine is effective by
using mobile data and community COVID management committees to monitor the quarantined individuals.
He said around 7000 COVID management committees have been put in place across the State with the support of local leaders, headmen, Rangba Shnongs and Nokomas. Geo fencing technology is being used to notify authorities case of a breach of home quarantine.
Further to support the families under quarantine, provision kits with 2-week rations and other essentials are being supplied, he said adding about 10,000 families have been provided with such kits in the last one month.
While taking part in the discussion, Leader of Opposition Mukul Sangma has suggested the government to consider institutional quarantine instead of home quarantine. According to him, quarantine actually refers to 40 (days).
To this, the chief minister said 90 percent of quarantine in the state are community quarantine centres adding in East Garo Hills it is almost 100 percent, with community setting up their own quarantine centres (to take care of stranded people who returned to the state).
He further informed that the government has spent a total of about Rs 115 crore from its own resources to deal with the health related challenges and for providing relief.
“Despite the economic slowdown, we are thankful that the Government of India has been releasing significant amounts as share of central taxes. The Government has the resources to deal with any eventuality in the coming months,” the CM said.
He said that the clear strategy since the outbreak of this pandemic has prepared the entire government and society to deal with any future cases of COVID-19.
“The district administrations and the Health Department officials have demonstrated their ability in doping active surveillance to ensure that the transmission chain is blocked,” he said.
The CM also informed that the government has developed an app called ‘Corontine’ to geo-track the citizens on home quarantine and to provide health advisories.
“We have also mandated all the citizens to download the ‘Arogya Setu’ app for contact tracing. Over 5,000 individuals are using the ‘Corontine’ app and 1,03,215 individuals are using the ‘Arogya Setu’ App. We made it mandatory for citizens to wear masks when in public places,” he said.