Governance

COVID-19: Odisha plans to prevent community transmission with weekend shutdowns at 11 districts

Doctors term the decision as illogical, say government should identify containment zones instead 

 
By Priya Ranjan Sahu
Last Updated: Monday 01 June 2020
Odisha plans to prevent community transmission with weekend shutdowns at 11 districts. Photo: Rashmi Ranjan Nayak / Twitter
Odisha plans to prevent community transmission with weekend shutdowns at 11 districts. Photo: Rashmi Ranjan Nayak / Twitter Odisha plans to prevent community transmission with weekend shutdowns at 11 districts. Photo: Rashmi Ranjan Nayak / Twitter

The Odisha government June 1, 2020 announced it would shut down every weekend this month 11 districts to prevent community transmission of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Experts, however, thought the move would be pointless. 

Odisha was among the most proactive states in enforcing lockdowns and managed to keep limit infection numbers until workers who had migrated out of the state started returning home. The state reported its highest single-day tally of 156 cases testing positive to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in June 1.

The 11 districts have received the most number of returning migrants in Odisha:

  • Ganjam
  • Jajpur
  • Kendrapara
  • Jagatsinghpur
  • Khurda
  • Puri
  • Cuttack
  • Bhadrak
  • Balasor
  • Nayagarh
  • Balangir

“The districts will be shut down on Saturdays and Sundays ... to prevent community transmission,” Odisha's Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said in Bhubaneswar. 

This took doctors in the state by surprise. “It is illogical and unscientific. Probably, the decision has been taken in a hurry and as a panic reaction due to the spike of 156 SARS-CoV-2 positive cases. But there is not a cause for worry as 153 of the infected persons are in quarantine centres,” a doctor, who did not wish to be named, said.

The government should rather focus on identifying containment zones in order to prevent community transmission, another doctor said. 

According to Tripathy, 95 per cent of the state’s positive cases have been reported from quarantine centres lodging some 250,000 people — mostly returning migrant workers — until May 31. More than 420,000 of them have returned to Odisha.

During the weekly shutdown, offices, commercial establishments, local transport, bus services and trading in non-essential services will be off limit. Healthcare services, pharmacists, clinics, hospitals and nursing homes will be open. Police stations, fire stations, ambulance units, petrol pumps and telecom offices will also be exempt.

The state will allow movement of rail transport and vehicles  to and fromrailway stations and airports. In case of funeral activities, the local authorities would give necessary permission and limit the number of attendees, Tripathi said.

Electronic media workers certified by district administrations can move freely. Besides, information technology-enabled services and the hospitality sector can operate with some restrictions, he added.

Schools, colleges and coaching institutions will remain shut through July 31. Places of worship and religious gatherings will out of bound throughout June. Hotels can operate at 30 per cent capacity; restaurants can serve house guests.

As of June 1, the total SARS-CoV-2 positive cases in Odisha are 1,948 while the death toll has reached seven. The highest number of 431 positive cases has been found in Ganjam district that is home to the maximum number of migrant workers.

It is followed by 280 cases in Jajpur, 152 in Balasore, 141 in Khurda (including Bhubaneswar city area), 139 in Kendrapara, and 120 each in Bhadrak and Cuttack.

The number of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases in Odisha was 162 on May 3 when the state government allowed migrant workers of the state stuck in other states to return home. Deaths due to COVID-19 were only one. Since then, positive cases have increased steeply, mostly due to infection in migrant workers returning from Surat in Gujarat.

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