Assam to ramp up COVID-19 tests, mulls return to lockdown

Asks Civil Aviation Ministry to restrict number of flights as cases rise.

June 13, 2020 07:04 pm | Updated 07:06 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A municipal worker fumigates to contain coronavirus pandemic in Guwahati. File

A municipal worker fumigates to contain coronavirus pandemic in Guwahati. File

The Assam government may reimposed lockdown depending on the outcome of 50,000 COVID-19 tests to be conducted in Guwahati, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Saturday.

Till 4 p.m. on Saturday, Assam had recorded 3,718 positive cases with 1,923 of them active and 1,784 discharged. Eight people have died so far while three migrated to other States.

Mizoram, one of Assam’s neighbours in the northeast, had reimposed lockdown for two weeks from June 9 in a bid to handle the flow of people returning to the State.

“People of Guwahati should be prepared for another lockdown, which may be imposed if a large number of people, say 500, test positive for COVID-19 after 50,000 tests,” Dr. Sarma said.

“We don’t want to harm the economy but if the situation demands, we will not shy away from enforcing a lockdown,” he added.

The government has decided to intensify surveillance in Guwahati after 25 people without any travel history were found infected with the novel coronavirus. The State Health Department will accordingly conduct 50,000 tests across 12 hospitals of the city from June 15.

Of more than two lakh people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the State, Guwahati has so far registered 172 cases.

Dr. Sarma said he has already discussed the gravity of the situation with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna.

“An analysis revealed that the cases in Guwahati were linked to the sites of loading and unloading of trucks and their parking ,” he said.

There are 153 godowns in Guwahati and it usually takes about three to four days to load and unload goods, the Minister said.

“We cannot quarantine the truck drivers as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. But we have decided to conduct the tests there. We have passed instructions to district authorities to collect samples from all areas where loading and unloading of goods takes place,” he said.

Dr. Sarma further said the State government has written to the Civil Aviation Ministry to restrict the number of flights per day to Guwahati to 25. This will help in maintaining social distancing, he added.

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