A question of quarantine
The Centre and States must have uniform requirements for travellers
- As tens of thousands of people move across States, many of them migrant workers and their families travelling as unorganised groups, the Centre finds itself facing a fresh front in the campaign to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
- While it was possible to shut down optional public activity and travel early on during the lockdown, those who were stranded within the country and abroad have started returning home.
- The Centre, as the lockdown regulator, now has the important task of creating a consensus with the States on the quarantine modalities.
- Confusion surrounding quarantine for passengers who took the first relief trains from New Delhi to various cities, leading to some of them returning to the national capital, underscores the need for agreement.
- With further easing of the lockdown, if not full withdrawal, many more will want to move within and between States, by rail and road, besides those returning from abroad.
- All States have to prepare for this by agreeing on the period of quarantine, and provide, as a baseline, decent and free official accommodation to anyone who wants it.
- Such a stratified approach is inevitable, considering that many travellers from areas with high transmission have been testing positive.
- For thousands of workers moving in groups by road across States, there is both the risk of infection and transmission.
- This is a daunting scenario as India has crossed 85,000 cases of COVID-19 and slowing the spread depends vitally on joint action.
- It must be pointed out that the Health Ministry, in its updated advice issued on May 10, approved home isolation for even patients with the virus, if they are deemed to be very mild to pre-symptomatic cases.
- This indicates a recognition of both the growing case load, the rising pressure on public facilities and the limited scope for paid quarantine.
- Yet, institutional capacity will have to be ramped up in the coming weeks as part of a cohesive policy.