New Delhi: India has reported over 15,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far but states such as Mizoram, Manipur and Goa have not seen any new case for at least 15 days.
Mizoram detected its first Covid-19 case on 25 March and there has been no new case since then. Manipur and Goa likewise haven’t seen any new case since 3 and 4 April respectively.
Similarly, Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry haven’t seen new cases since 10 and 11 April.
Speaking to officials in Mizoram, Manipur and Goa, ThePrint found that early screening of incoming passengers, closing state borders, strict enforcement of quarantine and lockdown orders have worked swiftly in reducing spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus.
Giridhar Babu, member of the national task force on surveillance and epidemiology, constituted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), however, warned that lower cases may point to two possibilities — either the lockdown has been successful or the number of positive cases have remained undetected.
One way of finding out the number of undetected cases, he added, was through hospital surveillance of patients with severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) and community-level screening for those with influenza-like illness (ILI).
States that have halted Covid-19 march
No new case has been detected in this landlocked Northeastern state, with a population of 1.08 million, after a 50-year-old pastor with a travel history to the Netherlands became its first Covid-19 patient on 25 March. He was in home quarantine when he had developed symptoms.
“Since he followed home quarantine strictly, his family members were not positive,” Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma, state nodal officer (Covid-19), told ThePrint.
Authorities have so far conducted 94 tests of the patient’s close contacts and healthcare workers.
Lalmalsawma said Mizoram has been closely watching international developments on coronavirus and acting swiftly to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The state began screening people at the airport and all entry points in February. It also deviated from the central guidelines and enforced a home quarantine of 28 days for all travellers on 18 February.
India had enforced a 14-day home quarantine for passengers coming from coronavirus-affected nations, till all commercial international flights were barred on 22 March.
Lalmalsawma said a state task force, led by the chief secretary, takes all decisions on the Covid-19 strategy. These are implemented on the ground by district and local level teams. The teams on the ground enforce the lockdown, while also ensuring that the poor do not suffer by distributing essential food supplies.
Mizoram started its first Covid-19 testing centre on 7 April at the Zoram Medical College in Aizawl and will begin conducting surveillance through rapid testing kits when they are made available.
This border state with a population of 2.8 million has reported only two cases of coronavirus, one of whom has already been cured.
A women patient, with a travel history to the UK, had developed symptoms while on home quarantine. She has since been discharged. Another is a 53-year-old man who attended the March congregation of Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi. He tested positive on 18 March.
The contacts of both patients were traced and quarantined by the state’s Quick Response Team. The area around the male patient has been demarcated as a containment zone with 4,500 households and 26,000 people screened till now.
Tomcha Khuman, state surveillance officer (Covid-19), Manipur, told ThePrint that early border control and proactive health surveillance have played an important role in containing the spread of the virus.
The state began screening of passengers at the airport by 18 January. Interstate screening of people began by 31 January. “This hadn’t happened in the rest of the country even till March,” said Khuman.
More than 1.1 lakh travellers have been screened in the state till now.
Status update on covid 19 pic.twitter.com/DNDTN3UhxK
— Directorate of Information & Public Relations (@DiprManipur) April 15, 2020
The state also started testing suspected Covid-19 cases by 2 February. Unlike other Northeastern states, Manipur has two testing centres — Regional Institute of Medical Sciences and the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Institute of Medical Sciences.
The state has so far tested 296 samples.
Even truck drivers who come with essential goods and government officers who have travelled from other states are screened and asked to stay in quarantine facilities, said Khuman.
“We are hoping that Manipur gets a partial relaxation from the lockdown restrictions after 20 April,” he said, adding the state will continue its containment strategy nonetheless.
Goa has reported seven confirmed cases since 3 April, six of whom have been discharged.
This has been an extraordinary achievement since the state, with a population of 1.4 million, neighbours Maharashtra with more than 2,680 confirmed cases and half a million foreign tourists visiting it every year.
I am pleased to inform that the sixth corona patient from Goa has recovered. Only one active case remains in Goa and no new cases reported after 3rd April 2020.
— Dr. Pramod Sawant (@DrPramodPSawant) April 15, 2020
From screening of domestic airline passengers, to training its team of microbiologists in sample testing and purchasing adequate PPE kits on time, the Goa administration has been tackling Covid-19 well.
According to a state government survey, which began on 13 April, there were around 9,000-10,000 foreign nationals in Goa at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown, posing a major challenge for the state. Since 25 March, around 4,500 foreigners have left Goa (either from the Goa airport or other airports such as in Mumbai and Pune).
“In the past three days (from 13 to 15 April), we have surveyed 4.46 lakh households in Goa under our door-to-door survey. The idea is to check if anyone from abroad has come to any of the households and if they are displaying any of the symptoms,” said a senior official of the state government.
Unlike many other states, the Goa administration had also anticipated a shortage of PPE kits early on and planned for it. “We realised we would need PPE kits, masks and sanitisers. Which is why we had placed orders much before cases started coming in. Our doctors and paramedic staff also feel safe to treat Covid-19 patients as they know our kits are of good quality,” the official added.
Goa was one of the few states that started domestic screening on 20 March even as international screening also went on.
“After the Ministry of Civil aviation issued directions for screening, we started it on 30 January and supplemented the Airport Authority of India staff with our own medical teams. They worked throughout the day. This really helped in checking all those who came to Goa from abroad. We went one step ahead and started domestic screening, asking people to give details on a self-declaration form. We didn’t stop there and started thermal screening too at the railway stations,” said the official.
The first case in Goa was reported on 25 March and the state health department sprung into action, with an intense contact tracing exercise.
To ensure those quarantined follow rules, medical officers have been assigned to make phone calls twice a day to check on their symptoms and whether they need any help. The state also put in place a dedicated Covid-19 hospital to ensure other facilities remained safe for people.
“One hospital has been earmarked exclusively for the Covid-19 patients and all doctors, nurses and paramedic staff who worked there are accommodated in a hotel to ensure their families also feel safe,” said another official of the state government.
To further ensure that testing for Covid-19 did not get impacted by the nationwide lockdown, the administration also set up its own lab. A team of microbiologists was sent to Pune through a Navy plane to get trained on testing samples. This laboratory, along with two others, now tests 150 samples per day, said the official quoted above.
The state government has now started screening for all those with SARI and ILI to ensure it is able to keep a check on new cases.