LETTERS | Umling checkpoint: An ideal place for COVID-19 transmission

It is no wonder that an awful 65% of the returnees to Meghalaya tested positive for the virus even though they might have taken all the necessary precautions to avoid the virus.


The rampant loss of human life and the unrelenting suffering people in the metropolitan cities had to endure made my stay in Bangalore, especially in the last week, a harrowing experience.

But it was when witnessing a friend losing her father after rushing across state boundaries in search of a hospital with an oxygen cylinder that I took to heart the severity of the situation.

Seeing a government hospital refusing to admit my friend's father just because he had not received the test result was the last straw for me, as I decided to come back home to be with my family in Meghalaya.

I took every precaution I could before coming back as I stopped meeting friends and colleagues. I also took the RT-PCR test before travelling to ensure I did not carry the virus across state lines.

The travel was smooth and safe; however, my hopes and intentions of taking every precaution available to ward off the virus were extinguished by the extremely flawed system implemented by the Meghalaya Government at the testing centre at Umling

I realised that all precautionary measures would be in vain as I was corralled and forced to stay in this overcrowded centre for almost five hours.

To register and test returnees at Umling, the system in place is most probably a consequence of extreme incompetence or a blatant lack of foresight from the state government. 

The whole process started online, where returnees had to register themselves on the state government website. All the required details of the returnees and their route of travel were recorded.

Most of the returnees anticipated that since registration was online, the only thing left to do at Umling was to take the test and make the necessary payment. 

Shockingly, the registration had to be done afresh. 

It took about ten minutes to register online, and people had to repeat the same procedure through a tedious process that took several hours. 

The process was so lengthy and frustrating that the travellers had to stand in line at four different counters to complete the entire process, and in each counter, it took almost an hour to go through.

The first two counters were especially ridiculous. At the first counter, we were asked our names, age, occupation and destination. 

Thereafter, we were asked to wait for our names to be called out at the second counter where we were asked our father's name, our vehicle number and whether we had any symptoms. 

The most ridiculous thing is that these details were already filled in the state government website.

Forcing people to stand in line in an overcrowded centre amid a pandemic just to fill in the same details again is pure insanity. 

Travellers had to wait in line again for another prolonged time to get tested and get the receipt at the third and fourth counter. 

Making matters even worse, the staff who were securely isolated in their plastic or glass protected cubicles and police who were stationed at the centre did not even attempt to ensure that travellers maintained social distance. 

There had even been several videos spreading online that can attest to the fact.

In such a condition where a large group of people were made to stay together for four to five hours while breathing the same air, I doubt if even masks will help prevent the spread of the virus. 

It is no wonder that an awful 65 per cent of the returnees to Meghalaya tested positive for the virus even though they might have taken all the necessary precautions.

The state government, through its sheer lack of foresight and common sense, forced them to go through a process that increased the chances of contracting the virus.

Considering the above, I am appalled to say that in this struggle for survival against the virus, the state's citizens should be wary of putting all their trust in the government's ability to deliver them from the ravages of this virus. 

It seems apparent that the powers that be have either not the slightest inkling about the goings-on at the Umling facilitation centre or no concern whatsoever, over the skyrocketing COVID caseload in the state. 

They sit and watch from their ivory towers while the virus engulfs the state.

Unless the system at the Umling centre is overhauled, any chance of success we have in this fight against the virus will be trounced. 
God help us!

- A Concerned Citizen (name withheld)

ALSO READ: Meghalaya NGO threatens to set up check gate at Umling to monitor influx