Importance of Community Engagement
When the novel coronavirus outbreak began and the government of India imposed nationwide lockdown in March this year to contain the spread of the virus, both the central and state governments tried to revamp healthcare facilities by setting up Covid-19 testing laboratories and procuring medical equipment like protective gear, ICU and ventilators to ensure that the hospitals were not overwhelmed in case of the outbreak which looked inevitable. The next most important task that all the states had to undertake simultaneously was setting up quarantine centres to facilitate suspected cases as well as thousands of stranded citizens who were returning home due to the lockdown. It was a huge challenge, something the world had not experienced in its history, which was why even developed countries that boast of good healthcare systems and economy faltered as they too had to adopt the “trial and error” method to fight the pandemic.
Like any other countries and states, Nagaland too began upgrading healthcare facilities on war footing, including setting up of bio-safety level laboratories and scores of Covid-19 hospitals in the shortest possible time. The state government did what it could with help from the government of India, civil societies, organisations and philanthropists, and it was commendable considering the state’s poor healthcare facilities, an outcome of decades of neglect by the successive governments since the attainment of statehood. However, the real battle has not begun in the state. The risk factor is less till now with most Covid-19 positive cases being confined to quarantine facilities but the detection of the disease in some frontline workers of late has indicated the possibility of the virus spreading further. What the public need to understand now is that no government can completely contain the spread of this invisible virus and all the works of the government will go down the grains if the public lack sense of respect for rule of law and fail to follow safety measures because cases are likely to rise with economic activities spreading its wings. So, the people should follow all precautionary measures until a vaccine for the disease is developed and made available in the market, while the government continues to upgrade healthcare facilities to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed if cases spike.
Besides upgrading hospitals, dozens of quarantine centres were set up across the state — in district headquarters, towns and villages — to facilitate the stranded citizens of Nagaland coming from various parts of the country via special trains arranged by the state government and those coming on their own, after the restriction on inter-state movement was relaxed. Setting up the facilities to accommodate thousands of returnees and serving quality food to them daily was a huge task in itself. Complaints from returnees- some for food and some staying overtime kept coming. Social media was flooded with photos and videos of food served and other complaints. Subsequently, some quarantine centres, especially those in Dimapur and Kohima gained notoriety. There is no denying that there were loopholes in the management of such quarantine facilities but the state managed reasonably well compared to many other states. As the dust slowly begins to settle down with the number of returnees decreasing and most quarantine centres discontinued, we can only visualise the amount of labour and sacrifice put in by hundreds of selfless people to ensure that those undergoing quarantine were safe as well as food was served on time. Considering the magnitude of work involved, it was a success story of community engagement, something that wouldn’t be possible if the government, frontline workers, churches, civil societies, organisations, philanthropists and citizens didn’t work together cohesively towards a common goal- to contain the spread of Covid-19. The people of the state should continue to fight the disease in the same spirit in the days to come.