Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at GMCH in Guwahati Credit: File image

Guwahati: In a major announcement that showed that Assam government is taking all steps to be COVID-19 ready, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday that the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) is being converted to a coronavirus hospital starting March 28 (Saturday).

“GMCH would be dedicated to corona cases. It would be open for emergency, maternity and cases only. All other cases would be handled by 33 private hospitals of the city. Government has signed MoUs with these private hospitals. Patients used to visit government hospitals as they get certain benefits under several government schemes. They would continue to get those and wherever necessary the government would foot the bill,” Sarma said addressing the media.

There are at least 750 patients at GMCH now.

Similar steps would be taken in Silchar and Dibrugarh, the minister said.

To keep the healthcare professionals and workers safe, the minister announced that these people would be quarantined for 14 days after working for seven days. Government is training all final-year MBBS, dental and nursing students to help the existing medical staff in case of any eventuality. Government will take care of the food of these students who would undergo extensive training over the next seven days.

Sarma also said that the state would build five hospitals to cater to any COVID-19 case. This step is being taken as a preparatory one, there are no confirmed case reported from the state yet. .

“The pre-fabricated hospitals would have 300 beds and would operate as normal hospitals with ICU and ventilator facilities. Each hospital would be built at an estimated cost of Rs 40-45 lakh,” Sarma said adding that these hospitals would not last beyond five years.

Of the five, one hospital would come up in Guwahati and one in Dibrugarh. Location for the other three would be decided soon.

The state has so far tested 308 samples and no confirmed case yet. Thirty-one samples came in on Friday morning, results of these are awaited.

The minister further clarified that all markets would remain shut across Assam starting Friday till further notice. A new order has been issued by the state chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna on Friday, following reports that markets had opened in several parts of Guwahati and other places of Assam and people started crowding them, violating the lockdown called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for 21 days. It’s the third day on Friday.

The minister also added that grocery shops have been directed to supply vegetables and packaged drinking water. Grocery shops and chemists would continue to be open during the lockdown period as per earlier order. All meat and fish shops would continue to remain shut till further orders. Situation would be reviewed on April 1.

District commissioners have been directed to ensure home delivery of essentials in areas where there are no grocery shops in the locality or nearby areas, the minister said quoting the chief secretary’s order.

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