Coronavirus fears fawn panic, rumours in Odisha despite no positive cases yet
Even as Odisha government shut down schools, colleges, gyms, swimming pools and advised reasonable restrictions on public functions after declaring Covid-19 as state disaster, the panic over the spread of the virus continued unabated as a newly-wed woman in tribal-dominated Nabarangpur district alleged she was being tortured by her in-laws on suspicion of being infected by Coronavirus.
Nabarangpur SP Nitin Kulsekar said Puja Sarkar of Umerkote block in Nabarangpur district had married a lawyer named Jayant on March 2. However, the woman was reportedly being tortured by her in-laws and husband for more dowry items. A few days ago, the woman had flu-like symptoms following which her in-laws suspected her to be suffering from novel Coronavirus.
“The woman in her complaint has alleged that her in-laws accused her of being infected with Coronavirus and even kept her in isolation. She alleged that she was forced to sleep on bare floor which worsened her health,” said a police official. The woman then left for her parental place and later lodged a case of dowry harassment against her in-laws. Following the FIR, the police today arrested her husband and father-in-law.
So far 25 samples in Odisha have been tested for Coronavirus of which 23 were found negative. The reports of two samples including that of a minor girl from Lithuania are awaited. The girl, who is on a tour to Puri with her family, was admitted to the isolation ward at Puri District Headquarters Hospital after she displayed flu-like symptoms. In Sonepur district, five persons who recently returned from Russia, United Arab Emirates and USA have been kept under home isolation.
On March 13, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had declared Covid-19 as a State disaster asking people to practice frequent hand washing and adopt strict sanitation protocols while advising them not to panic.
“In the absence of any vaccine or treatment, our collective responsibility is the only hope we have to fight this epidemic. We must remain prepared, but not panic. Each one of us has to be committed as an individual and each family has to act as a responsible unit to protect ourselves and others from this pandemic. Personal inconveniences will be faced and families may have to make sacrifices, but extraordinary circumstances call for an extraordinary response,” Patnaik appealed.
But the opposite seems to be happening even as Odisha government framed guidelines for taking action against people who spread false information about the disease. As some people took to social media to spread rumours about Covid-19, police arrested two people. On March 13, police in Rayagada district had arrested a 32-year-old man on charges of posting fake news on his Facebook wall about a Covid-19 positive man being admitted to Rayagada hospital. On March 14, police in Kalahandi district arrested a teacher for allegedly posting fake news about a person being infected with Coronavirus.
In Keonjhar district, thousands of women thronged a temple to offer prayers to keep them safe from the virus believing a rumour that mothers with single child needed to collect Rs 5 each from seven mothers with two children and offer prayers at the temple.
In Nabarangpur district, residents of Aunli village under Papadahandi block are making a beeline to a Shiva temple to perform puja to keep the virus from spreading around.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the government imposed curbs on visits to major tourist places like Puri, Konark, Chilika and Chandrabhaga. In the famous Sri Jagannath temple, it asked the servitors (temple priests) to wear masks during the conduct of rituals. The pilgrims arriving at the temple have been asked not to touch the idols and ensure a gap of at least 2 meters between them, said Shree Jagannath Temple chief administrator Dr Krishan Kumar.
To identify and refer suspected Coronavirus cases to hospitals, Odisha government empowered the sarpanch of grampanchayats, ward members, corporators and councillors of urban bodies and office-bearers of resident welfare associations.
Odisha industries secretary Hemant Sharma said as per Odisha Covid-19 Regulation 2020, the empowered officials would submit the details of all persons in their area who travelled from abroad in last 14 days to the block development officers or executive officers of respective municipalities.
Though Odisha so far seems to be safe from the virus, the politicians are not letting the opportunity go to score brownie points. Slamming the adjournment of the Budget session till the end of this month over Coronavirus scare, BJP leader Bishnu Sethi said the virus seems to have infected Naveen Patnaik and Biju Janata Dal. “When Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are still going on despite the Covid-19, why did Naveen Patnaik close down Assembly? Due to the scare created by the government, people are not going to markets and labourers are not working,” he alleged.
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