Covid rules confusion over Omicron? Maharashtra Government in dilemma…
This is in regard to the recently reported Variant of Concern (VoC) B.1.1.529 termed as Omicron variant by the World Health Organisation. Yes, the title of my blog is correct. Has the Maharashtra Government, the BMC and the Task force lost its ability to think correctly? Just because CM Uddhav Thackeray has an ego alter with the centre, are bureaucrats falling prey to his diktat all the time? Now who is responsible for all this confusion and mess that has been created for travellers? CM Thackeray says one thing, Health Secretary Pradip Vyas has one view, BMC chief Chahal says another thing, Minister Aaditya Thackeray says another, that task force doctors say another, are you people taking the public for granted or what? The ones discussed are travellers and not some ruffians whom you are talking of just dumping from here to there. I really miss Ajoy Mehta in these times. Bureaucrats please don’t be puppets of politicians. There is a reason why it is called ‘All India Services’. The ego war between the state and centre these politicians are ordering you to do anything. Don’t fall for it. And by the way, why to deviate from the Centre’s laid down norms? CM has ordered you nah, not to fall under pressure and guidelines given by centre and we should be more stringent than the centre, boss, you are damaging state ‘s reputation now; the centre has already sent a stern warning in this regard to either fall in line with policy or simply fall out. Dear Shri Chakrabarty, please sign the documents only after reading it and understanding the consequences of it.
Now what I have learnt is this Omicron virus has gone wild in Africa and other European countries. Clearly the centre has identified a list of countries that are at risk. Even in the countries that have even 4 patients of this virus, the Centre has put these countries in the risk category. Then the BMC on 1.12.2021 made a list of ‘ultra risk countries’ namely South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini. Now the Centre made a policy on learning about this virus that all those international travellers coming to India from these high risk countries , a set of rules are to be followed. Their RT PCR tests are to be done on their arrival with separate counters and all. For the rest of the people arriving from anywhere else, the centre said, just take RT PCR at the airport and if negative, let them Go; and for the positive one’s let their sample go for Genome sequencing and follow their guidelines. Now what our Maharashtra is saying, whosoever is coming from ‘ultra risk countries’ compulsorily they have to institutional quarantine in Covid Centres of the BMC for 7 days whosoever you may be!
Centre sent another reminder to Maharashtra Government to follow rules laid down. Just take RT PCR if negative, let them go and then observe them on Day 2 and Day 5. I heard someone in the BMC earlier (IAS) was of the view that those even who test negative or positive immediately the immigration office and DCP at airport should take their passports and when these people take their tests on the 2nd, 4th and 7th day at Covid Centres, and if negative all the while, then only passports to be returned. Thank God, good sense prevailed and this proposal was shown the dustbin by a Task force doctor.
Next the BMC came up with via letter dated 29.11.2020 that the DCP immigration and FRRO a proforma of declaration for all arriving passengers to declare details of all countries visited in the last 15 days. If they have travelled to any African or ultra risk countries, they should be institutional quarantined for 7 days followed by 7 days of home quarantine. Again if they test ‘positive’ then directly 7 hills or any other Covid hospital. Then for those who have connecting flights, such passengers coming from ultra risk countries to be segregated separately and then have to do a RT PCR if they come negative they will be allowed to board their connecting flight, If positive no connecting flight straight admission at hospital. GOM issued an order . Then the BMC decided this was a bit too early as many travellers would be air borne; they decided to implement this from the 2nd December midnight.
Again the centre wrote to our Health Secretary that they are deviating hell lot from the guidelines of the centre. What does the centre say? Centre says, compulsory testing RT PCR for passengers coming from high risk counties and random testing of all those coming from other countries if positive, send the samples for genome sequencing and those negative send them home and they must be followed up by the State Surveillance Units on Day 2 and Day 5. Simple isn’t it? But here our BMC and Task force and the CM want to be stricter than the centre and again create confusion.
Ahh, by the way a new letter has been sent from the BMC to the Chief Secretary dated 1.12.2021. It says those who are coming in Maharashtra (inter-state) by air, either double vaccination OR 72 hours prior RT PCR test is a must. Those coming by road in Maharashtra, compulsory test report prior 72 hours even if you are doubly vaccinated.
My basic questions if Maharashtra does what they have decided to compulsorily institutional quarantine everyone coming from abroad.
- 2000 international travellers come to Mumbai everyday. Do we have enough institutional quarantine centres? Some might stay at 5 star and rest you can put them at Richardson and Crudas centre where there are no facilities.
- People with influence and money will have a back door entry. Who will track them if on Day 2 or 5 they get covid ?
- Suppose someone decides not to arrive in Mumbai from any country. They arrive in Ahmedabad from Africa and drive or walk from Ahemdanad to Mumbai. What if they test positive on Day 2 or Day 5? How will you track them ?
- Are 5 star hotels now who are in full business offering you rooms?
I like the policy drafted on 1.12.2021 by the BMC (pic attached). They have categorised 6 ultra risk countries. For the rest of passengers apart from ultra risk countries, the BMC is suggesting to adhere to rules laid down by the Government of India. Now please concentrate on the racket of fake covid tests that are going on in Mumbai. Form a flying squad for that and stick to the letter dated on 1.12.2021. Just make one change. Don’t make life difficult for inter-state travellers by road. A double vaccination report should be enough, I feel.
Vikrant Hemant Joshi