Will Manipur's border town Moreh retain its Covid-free tag as it limps back to normalcy?

As the border town opens up, civil groups have appealed for strict vigilance on the incoming public from other districts to the state lest the place loses its COVID-free zone status.

Manipur’s commercial hub Moreh, which has so far managed to remain a COVID-free zone in the state despite it being a border town, is slowly opening up and limping back to normalcy. Shops and markets have started to open following the state government order for relaxation in lockdown restrictions with effect from Tuesday. But, amid the unlocking, residents fear losing the COVID-free status as free movement could result in spread of Coronavirus in the town.

Trade and business establishments have started to open with normal vehicle movement. However, most of the main markets such as community variety markets and super markets showed low selling capacity.

Movement of people inside the town has increased but the Moreh police and MR personnel are on duty to maintain the SOPs and guidelines given by the Home department. Transportation of goods from Moreh to Imphal has started.

However, civil volunteer organisations have appealed for strict vigilance on the incoming public from other districts to the state lest the place loses its COVID-free zone status.

“Moreh town being a COVID-19 free zone, people are afraid in view of the free movement of the public from various places. At present, the town does not have any COVID-19 patient and the patients who are treated at sub-district hospitals or COVID Care Centre of Moreh are patients from different villages of Tengnoupal district. So the public should be on high alert to the spread of the disease,” said civil bodies' leaders.

Meetei Council Moreh president M Thoiba and Hill Tribal Council president Ginkhosei Lhungdim, in different press communiqués have stated that people coming from other districts should be checked strictly. If they say they are free from COVID-19, they should come with COVID-19 negative certificates, the hill leaders said.

The Border Gate No I and II of Moreh town transiting Myanmar’s Nanphanlong market and Tamu town will remain closed for some time, a reliable source said, adding Myanmar authority will not open its market and town for a few more days.

It may be mentioned that people from different parts of the state and the country come to Moreh for business and all types of commercial purposes. Over 30 per cent of the state depends on Moreh border trade. All types of legal and illegal trade activities operate in Moreh. Hundreds of laborers depend on daily wages. Small and petty traders from different parts of the state earn their livelihood from the Moreh market.

However, owing to the closure of the border gates between India and Myanmar, people could no longer venture out for any trade activity. When the border was opened, many tourists from different parts of the country also visited the town. With all major business outlets locked down and left with no alternative means of livelihood, different communities living in the town have been living in fear of poverty and hunger.

In view of the dire circumstances, despite the fear of the spread of Coronavirus, many leaders and civil voluntary organisations of the town have appealed to the state government for reopening of border gates for a few hours on a routine basis. Recently, the Meetei Council Moreh, the All Community Development Organisation Moreh (ACODOM) and the Indo Myanmar Workers Forum in different press statements, appealed to the state government for opening of the border and sought necessary help for the people of this town.

First Published:Sept. 2, 2020, 9:55 a.m.