Quarantine Games

With COVID-19 positive cases in the family, should the health minister be out on duty on in quarantine?

Two days after a few family members of the state Health Minister L Jayantakumar Singh were found Covid 19 positive, the Minister was seen inspecting the site of a new Covid Care Centre at Manipur Trade and Expo Centre, Lamboikhongnangkhong along with some officials of the Health Department. The minister said, the new Covid care facility would have 300 beds and it would be ready in 3 days. The first such facility at UNACCO School in Imphal West District was opened on June 13 with 100 beds and had since been upgraded into a 253 bedded facility. A few other Covid Care Centres have been opened in the districts.

The new facility at Trade Centre would certainly helped in combating the pandemic. The minister himself tweeted about the inspection. The fact that, two among his family members have been tested positive and his family home near Pishumthong have been declared a containment zone does not deter him from performing his duties and responsibilities as a Minister. It is quite commendable. Yet, a question arises whether he should not be under home quarantine even though his own Covid-19 test came negative.

The usual procedure after a possible contact with a Covid positive person is seven to 14 days of home quarantine, even if the test results become negative. The newly appointed Hockey India President Gyanendro Ningombam was advised home quarantine for seven days by state authorities, after his three-day visit to New Delhi headquarters.

Questions have been asked in recent past on whether there is a separate SOP for VIPs and VVIPs or for that matter for visiting BJP observers also with regard to quarantine. The Congress party had first raised the issue when two of its Central Observers of the Rajya Sabha elections were quarantined in a paid facility. The state government later clarified that, the said two Observers did not have return tickets and they had to be quarantined as per regulations. The same questions again came up in the public domain, as Ministers and Central Observers shuttled back and forth between Imphal and New Delhi to settle differences in the ruling coalition headed by BJP, as a partner NPP changed sides during the Rajya Sabha election. But, the questions were somewhat low-key as the developing political crisis and fallout eclipsed the public discourse.

It reared its head again, after four BJP ministers slipped out of the state on a three day visit to the capital to meet Central leaders. They had to return home without getting an audience with the powerful Union Home Minister Amit Shah and General Secretary Organisation B L Santosh. The next day after their return to Imphal, the four BJP ministers excused themselves from the Cabinet meeting citing home quarantine. What is more interesting, the said four ministers came out of home quarantine and presented themselves before the visiting Central BJP Observers Jay Panda and Manoj Sinha at Hotel Classic Grande along with other party MLAs.

The two Central leaders also met the state Chief Minister N Biren Singh at his official residence. Two days later, the Covid 19 Control Room housed within the premises of CM Secretariat was declared a containment zone, after a health official who came to the Control Room was found positive.

First Published:July 29, 2020, 6:25 a.m.

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