Any ideas on Covid 19 policy?

We must also understand that framing a Covid 19 policy now is not an easy task as it is everywhere. Not to talk of the state and the country at large, even the rest of the world is yet to develop an effective policy to combat the pandemic.

In the midst of hectic campaign schedules as the Chief Minister N Biren Singh struts from constituency to constituency, questions have been raised on the way the pandemic is being dealt with and of his effectiveness. Some opposition parties allege that the Chief Minister has been neglecting his Covid 19 duties as his main focus nowadays is on the election campaign in his pitch to increase the BJP tally in the ensuing November 7 by-elections. Some are even questioning his retaining the important portfolio of Health besides his busy schedule of a Chief Minister holding multiple portfolios. Yes, it is a legitimate question especially during such a public health crisis as the Coronavirus pandemic confronting the state now. So much so, nobody questions Thongam Bishwajit holding several important portfolios as he is not the Chief Minister. Looking back, the Health department had a Minister in the person of Langpoklakpam Jayantakumar of NPP who was dropped only recently. But, it was the Chief Minister who was directly monitoring the fight against the pandemic as it had the proportions of a disaster where the Chief Minister and all the Ministers and even the MLAs had to be directly involved.

From Day One, the CM Secretariat became the nerve-centre of all Covid related activities in the state. The Chief Minister, always a hands-on person himself personally monitors all Covid 19 related activities in the state even to the extent of situating the state level Covid 19 Control Room in the CM compound itself in the first place. Simply because of that, all staff in the CM Secretariat and security personal had to be tested for Covid 19 after a National Health Mission staff, who later tested positive, had entered the Covid 19 Control Room housed in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat on July 22. Even members of the press who participated in a press conference on that day had to undergo tests. The Durbar Hall in the CM Secretariat was subsequently declared a containment zone by the Deputy Commissioner Imphal West.

Besides opening the Control Room in the CM Secretariat, it is said that the Chief Minister directly monitored the return of state natives stuck elsewhere in the country and also initiated the Covid 19 Task Force and Consultative Committee, of course with active participation and inputs from the then Health Minister L Jayantakumar. In the grapevine, there were even complaints against the Chief Minister of too much interference in the affairs of the Health Department in Covid 19 matters. But then, it was a state emergency and everyone from top to bottom had to put their heads together to fight the pandemic.

Now, after the ministry reshuffle and the Chief Minister himself retaining the Health portfolio a Health Advisor to the CM in the person of Dr Sapam Ranjan Singh, the MLA from Konthoujam constituency has been appointed and he is directly overseeing the Covid 19 operations under the Chief Minister. Dr Ranjan, himself a health professional understands well the contours of a public health crisis. Yet, we have to be conscious of the fact that the pandemic is spiralling out of control in the state in recent times, with the daily surge in Covid positive cases. The student organisations are right in demanding a specific Covid 19 policy to meet the challenge, given the alarming situation.

However, we must also understand that framing a Covid 19 policy now is not an easy task as it is everywhere. Not to talk of the state and the country at large, even the rest of the world is yet to develop an effective policy to combat the pandemic. Even the nation with all the experts cannot come up with a solution except with the standard slogans of safety measures of using masks, regular hand-washing and maintaining social distance.

-EDITORIAL

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First Published:Oct. 30, 2020, 9:06 a.m.

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