October 28, 2021

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Myanmar refugee influx blamed for Covid surge in Mizoram

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Myanmar refugee influx blamed for Covid surge in Mizoram
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Myanmar refugee influx blamed for Covid surge in Mizoram
Myanmar refugee influx blamed for Covid surge in Mizoram

GUWAHATI: With Mizoram recording 15,270 active Covid-19 cases as of Monday, the highest among all the northeastern states, border district officials attributed this late surge to the arrival of displaced refugees from Myanmar, amid a fresh offensive launched by the military there, and trading activities across the porous border.
While Mizoram health department has admitted that many of the refugees were infected with the coronavirus before they arrived, border district officials said they are posing a big threat to villages on the Indian side.
Champhai and Hnahthial are the two most vulnerable districts in Mizoram as they have had to bear the brunt of the refugees. People in these districts fear more refugees could cross over for shelter. District officials said the two districts currently have around 6,000 displaced people from Myanmar.
There is no opposition to providing shelter to the refugees as the state government is also supporting it, along with local village organisations. But allowing asymptomatic people, who may have passed the RAT screening, to mingle with the local residents has not only posed a threat to public health, it may also have serious consequences on other northeastern states.
Deputy commissioner of Champhai, Maria CT Zuali, told TOI on Monday that refugees are suspected to have contributed to the rise in the Covid-19 cases in the district, along with trade activities among villagers from both sides of the international border. As per official records, there were 3,972 displaced Myanmarese nationals in Champhai, as on September 24. Of them, around 33 tested positive during screening immediately after entering India.
“They carried the virus from the other side of the border and all of them were asymptomatic. We fear that some of them, who were found negative in RAT testing, came in touch with some local villagers and spread the virus,” said Zuali.
On Sunday, Champhai had the second highest positivity rate at 6.55 per cent among Mizoram districts. And there is a fear that sympathy from bordering villagers that brought them in contact with the displaced may have a cascading impact.
The local villagers are arranging temporary shelters for the refugees on the outskirts of their localities, though the district administration and health department are making all efforts to vaccinate the 18-plus.
“The refugee factor is there. People here are used to buying onions, garlic and apples from Myanmar traders. Both have contributed to the virus spread,” Zuali added. The refugees, who tested positive, are quarantined, but the rest are buying food and other essentials from local shops.
Even if the international border remains sealed now, people living in nearby villages are likely to buy food products through the porous border.
The broader picture revealed that the cases are both from rural and urban areas of Mizoram, with Aizawl district contributing more than half of the cases. The majority of the cases in Aizawl district are from the state capital Aizawl, which is well connected with Assam capital Guwahati and other metros of the country through Lengpui airport.
Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma, state nodal officer and spokesperson for Covid-19, said that the newly detected cases are mostly from primary high risk contacts of recent Covid-19 positive persons, following aggressive search for cases across the state.
He said possible reasons for the current upsurge is the presence of Covid-19 new variants in the state – Delta, Delta plus, Alpha, Eta and other variants of interests listed under Delta family. “Continuing small scale community transmission in the state is a reason for the upsurge,” said Lalmalsawma.
He said aggressive and active search for new cases by Police Contact-tracing Teams in collaboration with local or village-level Covid-19 task forces at the grassroots level has unearthed a large number of hidden cases.
But Lalmalsawma, too, admitted that the displaced from Myanmar are also affected by the pandemic. “Respective district health authorities are doing their best to detect or contain any event in those places and the activities are being monitored,” he added.

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