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BSF asked to trace source of coronavirus

Tripura now has the highest number of positive cases in the Northeast; Assam is second with 45 cases
Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb

Tanmoy Chakraborty   |   Agartala   |   Published 06.05.20, 11:09 PM

Rattled by the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases among BSF personnel in the state, the Tripura government has asked the paramilitary force to trace the source of the infection and inform it of the steps taken to prevent its spread. Altogether 22 people, including three children, tested positive for Covid-19 from the 138th Battalion of BSF Tripura Frontier on Wednesday, taking the total count to 62.

Tripura now has the highest number of positive cases in the Northeast. Assam is second with 45 cases.

The 138th Battalion is based in Ambassa subdivision in Dhalai district, around 70km from here. From May 2, when two BSF jawans first tested positive, till Tuesday, 40 BSF personnel and their family members had tested positive in the same location.

Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb tweeted: “Alert! 22 persons from 138th-Bn #BSF Ambassa found #COVID19 POSITIVE today including 18 Male, 1 Female, 3 Children. Total #COVID19 POSITIVE cases in Tripura stands at 64 (2 already discharged, so active cases: 62) Don’t Panic, Govt is working vigilantly. #TripuraCOVID19Count”.

Principal secretary (home) Barun Kumar Sahu had asked BSF inspector-general of Tripura Frontier Solomon Yash Kumar Minz on Tuesday to trace the source and had sought a response within one week.

Deb had announced Tripura a coronavirus-free state after the first two patients tested negative and were discharged on April 23.

Law minister Ratan Lal Nath said the Centre has asked the state government to shift the Covid-affected BSF personnel from GB Pant Hospital to the BSF hospital at Shalbagan near here. However, the state government is yet to take a decision.

He said Deb has also asked Minz to submit a detailed report on the situation with the next seven days.

A public relations officer of the BSF Tripura Frontier told reporters that they have launched a full-fledged investigation to trace the source of the virus in the battalion.

“We haven’t received the details yet. But more than 250 BSF personnel returned from leave or training elsewhere in India in March. Some of them might have unknowingly carried the virus back. It is an exception since there was no similar outbreak of it in other camps. We are investigating the issue and shall submit a report to the state government as soon as possible,” the PRO said.

He said ever since the lockdown was imposed, the BSF has been following a series of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and has temporarily suspended all mass physical activities. The BSF has also suspended joint patrolling with its Bangladeshi counterpart, the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and any exchange of paperwork.

Dhalai district magistrate Brahmeet Kaur told The Telegraph that they have marked three containment zones in the district, the BSF 138th Battalion headquarters at Jawaharnagar and a 3km radius around it, the Gandacherra base camp and the Kareena border outpost, so that there is no unauthorised exit or entry, to prevent the spread of the infection to the unaffected areas.

“We are trying to conduct house-to-house surveillance in these areas to find out if anybody came in contact with the infected persons. The frontline Asha and Anganwadi workers are in the field. On Tuesday, we collected 259 samples from the district and sent it for testing,” she said.

The local healthcare apparatus is focusing on the containment zones and a 7km buffer area outside it. All households in the containment zones have been put under quarantine.

Tripura additional chief secretary of health S.K. Rakesh said they have started an intensive surveillance. So far, all positive cases are from the BSF 138 Battalion and there is no indication of the virus having spread outside. “We are doing random testing and spraying disinfectants across the district. Red zone protocol will follow in the district. The civilians and vehicles can’t move without emergency,” he added.

The government has also said that all journalists working on the ground for coronavirus will be tested and a scheme will be announced to ensure the safety of their family members.

Deb tweeted in the evening: “Along with other frontline warriors, media personnel are also moving from one place to another for news coverage. In view of their safety, we have decided to test the samples of all media personnel who are working on the ground. #TripuraCares4all'.

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