COVID-19 situation in Odisha under control but next few days extremely challenging: Patnaik

Bhubaneswar, Apr 29 (PTI) The COVID-19 situation in Odisha is 'well under control', but the next few days will be 'extremely challenging' as a large number of people are likely to return from states that have been hit hard by the pandemic, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Wednesday.

He said though the management of the COVID-19 situation after the migrants return to the state will be a huge challenge, it could be successfully tackled with the assistance of the people like done previously on the arrival of foreign returnees and those from Delhi's Tablighi Jammat congregation.

Patnaik expressed hope that Odisha will be able to create history in effectively containing the spread of coronavirus if people cooperate with the state government and adhere to the COVID-19 management guidelines.

'The COVID-19 situation in Odisha is now well under control. The next few days are going to be extremely challenging and crucial, but there is nothing to be afraid of,' he said in a video message.

'A large number of Odia brothers and sisters will return from states like the worst-hit Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan and our neighbouring West Bengal,' the chief minister said.

Officials are expecting the number of migrants stranded in other states and waiting for the lifting of the lockdown to return home at around five lakh.

Their arrival will lead to the detection of more COVID-19 cases, but the situation can be kept under control with the cooperation from people, the chief minister said, adding people should assist the state government in ensuring that all returnees are registered and placed under quarantine.

'This will ensure that the returnees and their families remain healthy, as also our villages and our society. A little bit of carelessness and negligence might put everybody in danger. It is a matter of life and death,' he said.

The chief minister cautioned that laxity on the part of even 10 per cent of people will lead to the escalation of the situation by 100 per cent.

Noting that taking care of people returning from abroad was a major challenge initially, Patnaik said Odisha was the first state to have started registration of foreign-returnees.

'I had sought your help and with people's cooperation, the situation was kept under control at that stage,' he said.

Then came another challenge with the return of our friends from Nizamuddin and we had to take care of them. All of you extended cooperation and we could control the situation properly, he said.

The Tablighi Jamaat event in the Nizamuddin area in Delhi in mid-March emerged as a major source for the spread of the virus in different parts of the country.

'Now, looking after West Bengal returnees has also become a major challenge for the state,' he said.

Noting that 50 of the 122 COVID-19 patients detected in the state had recently returned from West Bengal, Patnaik said the state has been able to deal with the situation properly with the help of the people.

Odisha has so far reported 122 COVID-19 cases. While 39 have recovered from the disease, a 72-year-old man from Bhubaneswar has died.

While foreign returnees comprised five per cent of the coronavirus cases in the state, 45 per cent got infected during their travel to other parts of the country.

The remaining 50 per cent were afflicted with the disease by coming in contact with already identified COVID-19 positive cases, an official said.

As part of the strategy to deal with the migrants' homecoming, the Odisha government has already decided to put the local village authorities at the forefront.

The state government has bestowed the power of a collector to sarpanchs (village heads) to help them make tough decisions for the purpose.

Patnaik recently administered the oath to over 6,000 sarpanchs to ensure that their areas remain coronavirus-free. PTI AAM SKN SNS AQS AQS