NEW DELHI: Mizoram's corona-free status can be attributed to the discipline of its people and the combined efforts of the church, NGOs and administration, says Chief Minister Pu Zoramthanga.
While happy that his state has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19, the chief minister told PTI he was worried about the economic slump due to the lockdown and the threat posed by "corona carriers" from neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar.
On Saturday, Mizoram became coronavirus-free with its lone COVID-19 patient being discharged from hospital, officials in the state capital Aizawl said.
The credit, Zoramthanga said, goes to the "discipline" of the people who allowed the state to execute all the provisions suggested by a special task force constituted for the sole purpose to curb the spread of the virus.
"Mizoram is a very disciplined state. With the help of the church, NGOs and administration, we have so far survived this crisis and are determined to continue to do so in the future," he said in a phone interview from Aizawl.
However, the threat from "corona carriers" looms large over the northeastern state, which shares a 510-km border with Myanmar and a 318-km border with Bangladesh, he said.
"This is a great threat for us as there are high chances of people from Myanmar and Bangladesh infiltrating into Mizoram due to the open borders. We are taking all measures to stop it." he said.
The 75-year-old former rebel leader, serving his third term as chief minister of the Christian majority state, said his government is extra careful and has deployed Mizoram Police personnel at all major checkpoints so there is no possibility of any infiltration.
While Bangladesh has reported 13,134 cases of coronavirus with 206 deaths, Myanmar has 177 cases.
Infiltration from both the countries into India is quite common.
Discussing the nationwide lockdown, in place since March 25 to curb the spread of the disease, Zoramthanga said it will adversely impact Mizoram since, like other northeastern states, it too depends on the Central government for funds to run its economy.
"Mizoram, like other states in the northeast, is a centrally funded state and gets 90 per cent of its funds from the Centre. If the country's economy suffers, which is likely to be the case, the ripple effects will be felt more here and will stay for long," he said.
"The real effects would be felt once the COVID-19 crisis is over. This cannot be ignored," he added.
Fitch Ratings last month slashed India's economic growth projections to 0.8 per cent in the current 2020-21 fiscal, saying an unparalleled global recession is underway due to disruptions caused by the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdowns.
According to Zoramthanga, infrastructure projects in his state will be impacted the most.
Mizoram has the highest number of pending road infrastructure projects in the region.
Work on more than 50 big-ticket road projects launched by the Central government owned National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation to improve the state's connectivity with Myanmar to boost India's trade with south-east Asian nations has been suspended due to the lockdown.
"Our road projects will get hampered the most. But this seems something where nothing much can be done. We can only wait and watch," Zoramthanga said.
The chief minister also said his government is in touch with the ministries of Railways and Civil Aviation to bring back over 5,500 Mizos stranded in several parts of the country due to the lockdown.
"We've brought back Mizos stranded in neighbouring states in the northeast.
But for the residents of the state who are stranded far away in other states, we are in touch with the Railways and Civil Aviation ministries to get the matter resolved," he said.
Mizoram shares its zero COVID-19 cases status with four other states in the region -- Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
India has registered 62,939 cases and 2,109 deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry on Sunday.
Mizoram Health Minister R Lalthangliana said on Saturday that the state's lone COVID-19 patient, a pastor, was discharged after 45 days of intense treatment and four consecutive tests showed negative results.