Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addressing media on COVID-19 in Guwahati on Friday

Guwahati: Stepping up efforts to prevent spread of COVID-19 in Assam, the state government on Friday announced a slew of measures including postponing all exams till March 31, stamping of all people entering the state from March 22, Sunday for self quarantine, and allowing government employees to work from home on a rotation basis.

“There is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Assam so far. We tested total 57 samples and all were found negative. It is a crisis for humanity, therefore we are taking all possible measures to keep our people safe,” state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said while addressing the media in Guwahati on Friday.

All passengers coming in to the state either by flight, rail or bus would be stamped for self-quarantine of 14 days. This would begin from March 22, Sunday. “It is a critical phase for Assam till April 5 because maximum people who are either working or studying outside Assam would be returning by March 22, many have already returned. The first stage of quarantine of 14 days would end on April 5 for these batches of people coming in, therefore it’s critical for us. I request all parents to ensure that their children follow the self-quarantine rule,” Sarma said.

An amount of $2,000 would be deposited in the accounts of all those people who are stranded abroad and had travelled overseas in the past 30 days. The amount could be increased depending on the situation. Assam government would also take up visa expiry issue of all such people.

The minister said that starting Saturday, only 50% of government employees should be attending office, the rest 50% would be working from home. “The head of the office, not the department head, would make a roster so that every alternate day or every three days only 50% of the employees are in office. However, this rule would not apply to employees of health, finance and treasury department and essential services like fire, water and electricty,” he said.

Regarding the Bodoland Territorial Council elections, the minister said that the state government has requested the state election commission to postpone the elections scheduled to be held on April 4 and put all campaigning on hold. “An announcement regarding this would be made by the state election commission either today or tomorrow,” the minister said.

Sharing data on the number of cases in isolation and the total number of people quarantined, Sarma said a total of 1,003 were placed under home quarantine. Sixty-four people who have completed their 28-day home quarantine period have been cleared as they tested negative. Forty-one people with some sign of fever are in isolation at hospitals.

Assam now has 4 ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) testing labs and the process is on to get labs at Diphu, Barpeta and Tezpur government hospitals also accredited by ICMR.

Reinstating the fact that there is no vaccine, no medicine for the virus yet, the minister said that social distancing, hand washing and intake of vitamin C for improved immunity should be practiced earnestly.

The minister further said that the government has requested business establishments in crowded market areas of Guwahati like Fancy Bazar, Hatigaon, Beltola to take steps to de-congest as a precautionary step. “Our health and municipal corporation officials are reviewing all crowded markets. We may shut these markets. An announcement would be made in the next 48 hours,” the minister said adding that the government would ensure that there would be no shortage of essential commodities.

He requested all private commercial establishments and shops to keep sanitizers, soaps and water in all their establishments. “Our health officials would be doing the rounds monitoring all these places. We will shut all those shops, offices, business establishments who do not follow this,” he added.

Accredited social health activists (ASHA) have been asked to pay door-to-door visits across Assam and report in case there are any cases of people reporting fever or showing any signs of coronavirus, the minister added.

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