More than 15000 people have died due to Coronavirus pandemic all over the world till now. Nations like Spain, Itlay, Iran have emerged as the worst-hit countries so far due to COVID-19 infection. In India, more than 560 cases have been tested for Coronavirus. Almost 75 crores Indians are under strict 21 days nation-wide lockdown imposed by Modi Government on 24 March, two days after the Janta Curfew.
Most of the Himalayan states in India remain vulnerable as they share their international borders with other countries like Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal. Assam is one such state though it has not reported any positive case till date. The state government has tested 57 samples so far and all have been negative. There are 4 test centers operating in the state namely, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati; Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh; Silchar Medical College, Silchar and Jorhat Medical College, Jorhat.
Even though there has been no positive case but in view of the massive outbreak, the state government has taken a number of measures to address the crisis. From 7 March onwards Assam has sounded alert after neighboring Bhutan informed about its first case. It was reported when US tourist was tested positive for COVID-19 infection. It was also reported that the infected person had been in Assam for more than 10 days before leaving to Bhutan. The NDTV reported that more than 400 people in the state have been quarantined after they came in contact with this American tourist.
The government has asked its employees to work from home on a rotational basis. The services of essential nature like health, fire and finance have been kept functional. All the examinations have been postponed which were due for the month of March including board exams. In a very encouraging step, the state government has announced financial assistance of $2000 for those residents who are unable to return home from abroad due to the suspension of international flights.
The government has directed all district administration to take actions for the closure of all bars, beauty parlors and salons. There has been no closure of the malls and shopping complexes but the local administration is monitoring on the number of people to be allowed to enter such premises. The state election commission which was scheduled to hold the election of Bodoland Territorial Council on 4 April has postponed the election till further notice. As a precautionary measure, the Northeast Frontier Railways on 19th March canceled 16 pairs of trains till 31st March in order to discourage people from undertaking non-essential travel. In another major development, the Kamakhya temple located in the Nilachal Hills and 107 other temples in the state have decided to ban the visit of the pilgrims as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Coronavirus.
As per the media reports, 41 people are suspected to be affected with Coronavirus and have been kept in isolation wards and 1,003 people have been recommended for home quarantine. According to the state health department, 16,508 passengers have been screened at various airports of the state and the other 4,000 have been screened at land ports along with India – Bhutan and India – Bangladesh border. Another 58,192 persons have been screened at railway stations and bus stations.
On a very positive note, the teaching and non-teaching staff of the textile department at Assam Agriculture University are making masks that can be reused. State Health Minister Mr. Sonowal has appealed to the people of the State not to panic and urged them to maintain personal hygiene to keep themselves safe from this virus.
(Author is working with the Research and Communications team at SDC Foundation. He tweets at stoic_gautamkr)