People in several villages in Tripura's Khowai district have claimed that coronavirus only infects the urban population and have stopped the entry of medical teams engaged in COVID-19 survey work in these areas by putting up road blockades, officials said on Tuesday.
The administration did not use any force as the week-long survey was a voluntary process and samples will only be collected from the villagers if they agree, District Magistrate Smriti Mol said.
People of tribal hamlets of Mungiakami, Jumbari, Tulashikhar, Twimadhu, and a few other nearby villages resisted the entry of the medical teams on Monday, the first day of the survey.
"Villagers cut off all entry and exit points in these areas and told the survey teams to return. They are of the view that the virus affects urban people only and not villagers," Mol said.
"We explained to them that samples would not be collected from everyone. A survey would be done in all households and samples of only those found with COVID-19 symptoms would be taken. But they did not agree to the survey," she said.
Mol said that the protests were mainly witnessed in Mungiakami village inhabited by around 300 families.
"There are more days of survey ahead. If they agree, we shall have the samples collected," the official said.
State Health and Family Welfare Director Dr Radha Debbarma said that she visited the village and tried to convince the villagers but they declined to cooperate.
"They haven't allowed us to conduct the survey till today. We aren't sure what prompted them to protest but we have received reports of similar resistance to the survey process from some other places as well," Debbarma told PTI.
She said that the health department would continue with its efforts to convince them to take part in the survey process.
When contacted, Superintendent of Police Kiran Kumar said, "They put up the road blockade around 10 am yesterday and stopped the medical team. The blockade was lifted at 3 pm but they haven't agreed to join the survey yet."
He said that there has been no law-and-order problem there but the situation was under watch.
The week-long door-to-door survey started from Monday morning to identify COVID-19 patients in the state. Health workers screened a total of 1,59,854 houses and collected 2,271 samples on the first day.
"Among them, 90 people have been found COVID-19 positive," Chief Minister Biplab Deb said.
He also appreciated the service of the healthcare workers for carrying out the survey.
"Our healthcare workers never give up their spirit & are keeping the fight against COVID19 one step ahead. Kudos to the efforts of Asha & Anganwadi workers who are visiting houses for COVID-19 survey in remote areas despite bad weather & poor road condition caused by heavy rains," Deb tweeted on late Monday night.
According to the latest reports, 4,067 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Tripura till date, out of which 2,467 have recovered and were discharged from hospital, while 18 migrated to other states.
The number of active cases in the state stands at 1,565 and fatalities at 17.