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Meghalaya government was quick to response to the outbreak of COVID-19 by coming out with community base program such as Community COVID-19 Management Committees (CCMC). This program involves the participation of all traditional heads such as Headman and Nokmas with an aim to prevent the community outbreaks well as giving awareness to their respective localities regarding the pandemic. COVID-19 Committee was planned to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 by giving preference to quarantine all returnees for 28 days in Institutional, Community and Home Quarantine Center depending on their result. The state government has also launched the largest ‘Corona Care Centre’ and the ‘Quarantine Facility’ in Meghalaya at IIM, Shillong with a total capacity of holding 258 patients. Chief Secretary M.S Rao informed that Meghalaya has over 3,227 beds available for treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Meghalaya saw over 16 thousands returnees both students and working individuals from across the country coming back to their respective homes. To facilitate the returnees, the government of Meghalaya has also set up two temporary camps in Guwahati Railway Station and Guwahati Airport. The government has made sure that no parents or relatives shall pick up their kin, instead all returnees are ferried by Government owned vehicles to their respective district where the samples are collected for further testing. All the returnees are being kept for the first three days in Institutional Quarantine Centre and if they are tested Negative, they are sent to Community Quarantine Centre which is being managed by traditional heads such as Dorbar Shnong in Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Nokmas in Garo Hills.

It is a fact that the State Government cannot accommodate all the returnees in the government own quarantine centre, hence it is the citizens of the state led by the traditional heads ensures that all the returnees are being quarantine with supervision so to prevent outbreak in the community. These community-driven quarantine centres’ ensures that those returning from other states receive a homely treatment.

General Secretary of Synjuk Ki Nongsynshar Shnong Ka Bri Hynniewtrep (SKNSKBH) R.L Blah which is a lead body to supervise the community quarantine centre especially in East Khasi Hills and Shillong said that the state Government with the initiatives from the respective Deputy Commissioner (DC) from all districts in the state along with the traditional heads have come up with over 645 active community quarantine centres in the state, with each centre having five to ten isolation beds and big centre’s with 30 beds.

"Since time immemorial, even before the British rule, the Dorbar Shnong and the traditional governance bodies have been active. The great thing with these traditional institutions and system is that they bring in manpower, like bringing volunteers," R.L Blah, the General Secretary of Synjuk Ki Nongsynshar Shnong Ka Bri Hynniewtrep (SKNSKBH) which is a top body of traditional chiefs comprises of Rangbah Shnong from various locality in the state.

R.L Blah informed that so far, the community quarantine centre has been able to mobilize over 24,000 strong volunteer forces (man power) to supervise and assist the state government and Health Officials in battling the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state. The General Secretary of Synjuk Ki Nongsynshar Shnong Ka Bri Hynniewtrep (SKNSKBH), the state government and the autonomous council will help them with logistics. When a young woman from Mawtharia village East Khasi Hills contacted the disease, the 'Dorbar Shnong' or ‘village committee’ has taken it upon itself to provide food, water and other essential commodities to the home quarantined families by maintaining social distancing ensuring that they are not stigmatized. This is an example of how ‘Traditional Institution’ can come to the rescue in times of emergency. For this purpose the dorbar shnong of Mawtharia was able to gather volunteers from around the villages to help the family during quarantine periods with close monitoring by the health officials.

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) Surveillance Medical Officer Dr. N Roy who was in the state has also lauded and appreciated, the approach taken by the state of Meghalaya in the fight against COVID-19. He observed that Meghalaya has given a lesson to the entire country on how community can come together in combating COVID-19.

“It is amazing to see the participation of community led by the traditional head in the state, in helping the government fight against COVID-19 by assisting to accommodate returnees in quarantine centre, this has helped the government to prevent the outbreak which is why Meghalaya has the lowest confirmed cases in India” Dr. N Roy, WHO (Surveillance Medical Officer).

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma announced a one-time assistance of Rs 5000 to each active Community Quarantine Centre (CDQ) for keeping stranded citizens, who returned from outside the state. Conrad K Sangma informed that the government also encouraged Home Quarantine along with all members of the family for those, who did not show any COVID-19 symptoms’ when they entered the state after they undergo for twice Rapid Test and RT-PCR test.

On the other hand, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) CEM Titosstarwell Chyne informed that the KHADC has also allowed two buildings to be used as Quarantine Centre and also promised to provide financial assistance to those traditional heads that are active in quarantine centre in various localities.

What is the role of Traditional Heads in tackling COVID-19 in the state?

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