Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Mizoram Health Minister R Lalthangliana on Saturday blamed the blockade in Assam for the recent deaths of COVID-19 patients in Mizoram.

“Covid patients are dying for want of medicines. Seriously ill patients are in dire needs of life-saving drugs…” the minister said in a video, which was shared with this newspaper by the state’s Directorate of Information of Public Relations (DIPR).

He did not specify the number of deaths of COVID-19 patients due to lack of medicines during the period of blockade. However, official sources said 25 people had lost their lives.

“Twenty-five COVID patients have died since the blockade (started). They had been admitted to hospitals and their condition was already serious. As our Health Minister has stated, the shortage of medicines, arising due to economic blockade, was also a large factor in accelerating the quick deterioration of their health and they succumbed to it,” Mina Zoliani, who is the Deputy Director of DIPR and member of the media cell on border issues, told The New Indian Express.

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The blockade was imposed by some organisations in Assam’s Barak Valley in protest against the July 26 border skirmishes that left six Assam Police personnel dead and scores of others, including the Superintendent of Police of Assam’s Cachar district, injured.

Lalthangliana said it was unfortunate that a number of trucks, carrying life-saving drugs, medicines and oxygen cylinders, are still stuck at the interstate border.

“With the rise in the number of COVID cases, we are finding it very difficult to manage patients who are in dire need of oxygen given the limited supply due to the blockade. Other basic necessities of COVID-19 management such as PPE kits and other drugs used in COVID-19 treatment protocols are still stuck at the border,” the minister said.

He said a truck carrying an oxygen plant, meant for the Zoram Medical College (ZMC) and sanctioned through PM Cares, was stranded in Guwahati. It is supposed to be commissioned before August 15 as per the Centre’s directive, he said.

He lamented that he did not get a response to his letters written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Assam’s Health Minister Keshab Mahanta on August 2 on the blockade and the issues connected with it. He urged them to take up the matter swiftly so that precious lives were not lost.

“When Mizoram is badly affected by the second wave of the pandemic, it is a matter of grave concern that life-saving equipment and crucial drugs and medicines are stuck at the border,” Lalthangliana said.

He demanded the restoration of vehicular movement to Mizoram immediately through the removal of “impediments”.

“This act of arrogance is clearly in violation of basic human rights and the rights to life under Article 21 of the Constitution,” he added.

The sources said the RT-PCR lab at the ZMC was facing an acute shortage of essential testing reagents which resulted in sample testing in the state getting capped based on the available stock.

National Highway 306, which traverses Cachar, is Mizoram’s lifeline.