Assam govt to adopt ‘ruthless quarantine’ policy with a human heart

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, May 21: Assam government has announced a “ruthless quarantine” policy to contain COVID-19 pandemic as the number of positive cases has touched 203 on Thursday.

“Everyone who is coming from outside must be under quarantine for 14 days. Quarantine will be ruthless but with a human heart. No one will be spared,” health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said addressing a press conference here

With the lifting of the ban on inter-state movement since May 4, over 37,000 people have returned to the state by roads and railways. Out of the 204 cases detected so far, 112 were those who returned to Assam after the inter-state movement started.

“We have seen a rise in cases recently after the ban on inter-state movement was lifted. The state has now entered a critical phase. This is just the tip of the iceberg as nearly 12 lakh people could return to the state in coming weeks,” Sarma said.

“From now, anyone coming back to the state will have to spend the first 7 days in an institutional quarantine facility and the next 7 days in home quarantine. The earlier policy of paid quarantine has been discarded and now the state will bear the entire cost of the quarantine period,” Sarma said.

“If we fail to implement quarantine properly, it will lead to community transmission. Hence we have decided to adopt the policy of ‘Ruthless quarantine, with human heart,” Sarma also said.

There will be no relaxation for the quarantine period and criminal proceedings would be initiated against violators. But at the same time the state would try to give the best possible care to everyone under quarantine.

“As per the new policy, district administrations can spend up to Rs 2,000 each per person on hotel rent for their period of 7-day facility quarantine, Rs 500 daily on meals, Rs 500 for medicine and sanitizers etc. and Rs 2000 for their food during home quarantine,” he said.

Village level committees will be formed to monitor that once a person goes back from facility quarantine, he/she undergoes 7-days of home quarantine along with all family members, he said.

Sarma informed that the community surveillance programme launched by the state had covered 21,489 villages in Assam and found 20,832 cases of people with fever, cough and respiratory problems. Tests conducted on nearly 4,000 of them have come negative for all.

“It’s a very good sign that an average of just one person per village is showing such symptoms. This could be due to use of masks and social distancing. It’s a very positive health indicator. More importantly, no one was found positive, which shows there is no community transmission in Assam,” he said.

Sarma said that the stated will focus on having containment and buffer zones to control spread of COVID-19 and will do away with declaring entire districts as red, orange or green zones unless there are 200 active cases in one district.

“No district will be categorized as a red or orange zone till there are 200 active cases. Instead we would follow a policy of having containment zones where new cases are detected and a buffer zone around them,” he said.

“District authorities will determine areas to be declared as containment or buffer zones. No activity will be permitted in containment zones, while there will be some relaxation in buffer zones. This will ensure that people in an entire district are not affected and normal activities can go on,” he said.

Sarma said the state government has already paid Rs 72.23 cr as financial assistance of Rs 2,000 each to 3.61 lakh people from Assam staying outside, who had registered themselves in the government’s portal. The second installment of Rs 2,000 would be disbursed on Friday and the next installment in June.

Similarly, another sum of Rs 25,000 each would be given to patients from the state who had gone outside for treatment of serious illnesses and got stranded due to the lockdown. The government had provided the same amount to nearly 900 such persons in April.

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