Coronavirus free Amreli braces for an influx of 1.5 migrants from Gujarat’s hotspots

Keeping the district free of Covid-19 is the biggest challenge for officials now

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Covid-19 free Amreli in Gujarat is bracing for an influx of migrants from two of the state’s hotspots – Ahmedabad and Surat. Media reports have cited that the state government announced that people living in Surat and Ahmedabad could return to their native places in Saurashtra, including Amreli. The natives of Amreli make up thousands of labourers working in the diamond polishing industry and embroidery industry in Surat as well as Ahmedabad.

Speaking to the Indian Express, Amreli District Collector, Ayush Oak said, “We will start the mammoth exercise of receiving all those coming from Surat and Ahmedabad from tomorrow. Right now we have the capacity of handling 3,000 persons per day at the checkposts. Around 1.5 lakh people will be coming from both the districts.”

He also mentioned that only two check-posts on state highway 25 – Chavand and Kotda Pitha will be open for the entry of migrants. Community leaders of migrants said that buses might start departing from Surat from Thursday onwards.

“We have deployed large contingents of police and 20 medical teams at these check-posts to screen people and check validity of their permits. Those who have even mild symptoms of COVID-19 will be shifted to quarantine facility while the rest will be directed to remain in home-quarantine. Those coming without valid permits will be directly sent to the quarantine facility,” he said.

He added that the government quarantine facilities that have a cumulative capacity of 6,000 beds have been set up in all 11 talukas of the district.

Oak told Ahmedabad Mirror, “In past 47 days we have received about 50,000 migrants. We expect the influx will continue for the next 10 to 15 days. We will therefore increase handling capacity at these check-posts to around 10,000 persons per day. We have set up five-member teams to monitor situation in each village and keep watch on those under home-quarantine.”

Oak also said, “From 5,000 people now, the administration will raise quarantine facilities to accommodate 12,000 people across 22 locations.” His biggest fear, he said was that the administration could have issued passes to people in the containment zone. If that is the case, it would be a “disaster”, he said.

Explaining the process of ensuring how he would work towards keeping Amreli Covid-19 free he said, “Whenever a migrant arrives, his pass will be validated first. The name in the list would be matched with the actual person. Then s/he will be medically screened, which includes checking body temperature, SpO2 and pulse rate. If need be, this will be followed by throat examination and BP check-up. Every person entering the district will be put in quarantine for 15 days. However, only after medial screening at the checkpoint, it would be decided if the person needs home quarantine or will be sent to a government facility. Moreover, each gram panchayat in the district will have a committee of 5 people who will keep an inward register for migrants and one for quarantine.”

“Till now we have home quarantined about 10,000 people. The task will get difficult as we are expecting over 40,000 people to be home quarantined now. We are fully geared up, but the next few days will decide the fate of Amreli,” he added.

Around 80,000 people from Surat and Ahmedabad had returned to Amreli in March, at the start of the lockdown. People were asked to follow the lockdown strictly and the district administration made sure that the same was implemented successfully.

“But people remained under home quarantine. A few who were violating lockdown rules were dealt with strictly,” said village sarpanch Navneet Akbari.

A high-level meeting was held in Surat and chaired by Minister of State for Health, Kishor Kanani and his cabinet colleague Ganpat Vasava with leaders of migrants from Saurashtra. Surat Diamond Association president Babubhai Katheriya, Surat District Collector Dhaval Patel, Saurashtra Seva Samaj Samiti president Kanji Bhalara and administrative officer in-charge Mahendra Patel also attended the meeting.

Katheriya said, “In the meeting, it was decided that the private luxury bus owners had to submit a list of passengers at the district collector’s office, for obtaining travel permit. The officers in Surat will co-ordinate with their counterparts in receiving districts and intimate about the number of people coming so that arrangements can be made for their quarantine period,” adding that diamond factories would probably be shut for the next two months.

BJP MP from Amreli Naranbhai Kacchadiya said, “The main reason we don’t have a single case is because we have sealed all the 90 roads that lead to Amreli. People have shown maturity during the lockdown. As Amreli falls in the Green Zone, shops and industries have been allowed to open up. Shops have been numbered odd and even, which operate on alternate days. As migrants come in, a well-managed total quarantine is the only solution.”

Amreli Congress President Lalit Thummar said, “People of Amreli and administration have worked very hard and maintained discipline in the past one-and-a-half-month. But, this decision of sending migrants may ruin the entire effort.”


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