Returned migrant labourers asked to stay atop trees during quarantine

Rickshaws are parked on a roadside during the 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 in Kolkata. Photo: AFP via PTI

Kolkata: Go climb a tree! So goes the idiom. The families and villagers of seven migrant labourers returning home to Balarampur village in Purulia district, West Bengal, told them just that.

Giving the social distancing during the times of the coronavirus outbreak new heights, the villagers asked these men to make trees their home during the self-quarantine. The villagers converted their machans (platforms on trees) set up for tracking elephant movements into quarantine rooms.

According to local MLA, Shantiram Mahato, the labourers had returned on Friday and were advised self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution against COVID-19.

"As they did not have enough space in their homes to maintain social distancing, it was decided they will live on trees for the time being," he said.

Cots were arranged which they tied to the branches and plastic sheets were placed over them to protect them from rain.

A separate space was marked for them outside the village where they could relieve themselves, bathe and wash clothes, a member of the local panchayat said.

They were allowed to climb down the trees to have meals and for answering nature's call. Blankets and clothes were provided by us, Bijoy Singh Laha, whose brother was among them, said.

He said after the seven returned from Chennai, doctors advised them to stay under home-quarantine for 14 days and follow social distancing.

Since their houses had few rooms, the villagers hit upon the idea that they take shelter on trees.

However, as social media got abuzz with their photos and videos, the local administration stepped in and shifted them to a quarantine facility on Saturday.