Mizoram: Myanmar refugee influx blamed for Covid surge in state

Mizoram, Oct 5: With Mizoram recording 15,270 active Covid cases as of Monday, the highest among all the northeastern states, border district officials attributed this late surge to the arrival of displaced refugees from Myanmar, amid a fresh offensive launched by the military there, and trading activities across the porous border.

While the Mizoram health department has admitted that many of the Myanmar refugees were infected with the COVID before they arrived, border district officials said they are posing a big threat to villages on the Indian side.

Champhai and Hnahthial are the two most vulnerable districts in Mizoram as they have had to bear the brunt of the refugees. People in these districts fear more refugees could cross over for shelter. District officials said the two districts currently have around 6,000 displaced people from Myanmar.

There is no opposition to providing shelter to the refugees as the state government is also supporting it, along with local village organizations. But allowing asymptomatic people, who may have passed the RAT screening, to mingle with the local residents has not only posed a threat to public health, it may also have serious consequences on other northeastern states.

According to the reports, refugees are suspected to have contributed to the rise in the Covid-19 cases in the district, along with trade activities among villagers from both sides of the international border.

As per official records, there were 3,972 displaced Myanmarese nationals in Champhai, on September 24. Of them, around 33 tested positive during screening immediately after entering India.

On Sunday, Champhai had the second-highest positivity rate at 6.55 per cent among Mizoram districts. And there is a fear that sympathy from bordering villagers that brought them in contact with the displaced may have a cascading impact.

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The local villagers are arranging temporary shelters for the refugees on the outskirts of their localities, though the district administration and health department are making all efforts to vaccinate the 18-plus.

The refugees, who tested positive, are quarantined, but the rest are buying food and other essentials from local shops.

Even if the international border remains sealed now, people living in nearby villages are likely to buy food products through the porous border.

The broader picture revealed that the cases are both from rural and urban areas of Mizoram, with the Aizawl district contributing more than half of the cases. The majority of the cases in the Aizawl district are from the state capital Aizawl, which is well connected with Assam capital Guwahati and other metros of the country through Lengpui airport.