Odisha’s quarantine woes brim over as thousands of migrants block highway
The Odisha government has cut down the duration of quarantine period from 28 days to 14 as protests over poor infrastructure and facilities at these centres continue unabated.Updated: May 26, 2020 23:43 IST
Odisha government’s woes linked to the rising Covid 19 cases in its quarantine and containment centres continued to brim over as about 2,000 migrant workers of eight districts including Ganjam, Bolangir, Khurda and Nayagarh staged a roadblock on National Highway (NH)-16 in Bhadrak town since Tuesday morning, alleging lack of basic facilities as well as low quality of food being provided by the government.
The migrant workers, who arrived at Bhadrak by train three days ago and are yet to be transported to the quarantine centres of their respective districts, on Tuesday morning blocked the NH-16 disrupting traffic on either side of the highway. The highway blockade continued for several hours till the migrant workers were assured that they would soon be taken back to their respective districts.
In Rourkela city, public anger boiled over in a containment zone leaving 15 policemen injured in stone pelting over the demand to lift the barricades around the containment zones. On April 26, Rourkela Municipal Corporation had declared the area around Mahtab Road locality as a containment zone after a person there tested positive for Covid-19. When police tried to stop the protesters, the latter resorted to stone pelting turning the roads into a battlefield. Police had to fire tear gas to disperse the mob.
Over the last fortnight, there have been a series of protests by inmates of quarantine centres across the state over the quality of food served and the lack of facilities which led to the state government reducing the quarantine period to 14 days from 28 days earlier.
The twin incidents came on the day chief minister Naveen Patnaik said the next 15 days will be challenging in the fight against Covid-19 following the resumption of flights and railway services. Odisha has so far reported 1,517 cases from 29 of the 30 districts with migrant workers returning from Gujarat, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states accounting for most of the cases.
“Over 95 per cent of our positive cases are from quarantine centers. This shows the robustness of our system and the efforts put by sarpanchs, people’s representatives and the entire government machinery from top to bottom cutting across departments,” said Patnaik.
Stating that testing has to be done smartly to take care of frontline workers and vulnerable population, Patnaik said that he was happy to know that Odisha was one of the leading states in testing which could also establish decentralized testing facilities in every part of the state.
“Our learning is that vulnerable populations including elderly persons and people with co-morbid conditions need extra care. So, I would suggest that we plan a fortnight of serious awareness creation in all the above mentioned points,” he said, after reviewing the Covid-19 situation. The CM also suggested the officers planned a fortnight long drive to create serious awareness on the need for social distancing, wearing of masks and frequent hand hygiene among people.
Chief secretary Asit Tripathy said testing, quarantine and discharge policies in Odisha are completely based on research and stricter than that of the Centre. Of the 7 lakh quarantine beds created so far in the state, 3 lakh quarantine beds have been occupied in Odisha, said Tripathy.
“Odisha has 33 Covid-19 cases per million against 108 cases at the national level. 2,861 persons were tested per million in the state against the national figure of 2,360 per million,” he said.
Mocking the government’s claims of handling the quarantine centres well, opposition Congress asked if the government has kept about 7 lakh beds at the quarantine centres, why it is now finding it extremely difficult to handle three lakh workers.