Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) on Monday chaired a high-level meeting of all Cabinet ministers, MLAs, state administration led by the chief secretary, and various stakeholders of the hospitality sector to deliberate on immediate measures to be taken to prevent the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.
Sikkim has not reported a single case of COVID-19 till date, but the government is taking all possible measures to prevent any outbreak.
Chief secretary SC Gupta gave an overview of the current situation, how the government is managing the situation, and further steps needed to be taken to handle it effectively. He stressed that the rate at which the virus is spreading exponentially, there is no room for any complacency. He, however, maintained that there is no need for any panic either.
He said that the quarantine wards at old STNM, New STNM, CRH, Ayush Hospital Geyzing, Namchi District Hospital, Army Hospital, seem adequate for the time being. He however proposed to convert government establishments on the outskirts or slightly isolated places into isolation wards to cater to a larger population.
He further said that in order to check contamination within a territory, several countries and states have called for temporary shut down of institutions etc. Keeping this in consideration, he proposed for closing down of educational institutions for a certain time. Likewise, we could put a temporary ban or embargo on entry of any tourist or visitor to the state in public interest, he added.
Principal health secretary K Srinivasulu briefed about the state of preparedness and measures being taken to contain the situation. He stressed that since COVID-19 has been declared as a global pandemic, there is no other option but to contain and exercise self quarantine. He also appealed to the people to exercise hygienic practices, especially in poultry farms and slaughterhouses.
DG-cum-secretary, health, Dr PT Bhutia in his address briefed about the current status of initiatives being taken by the state health department. He reiterated that this is a pandemic, and support and cooperation is solicited from all departments and concerned stakeholders to contain the situation. Speaking about the screening process, he said that the we need additional manpower from NGOs. He informed that civil defence is already in place. He informed that the Urban PHC (Old STNM) has been designated as quatantine ward, and has adequate space. However, he requested the SDRF to take over the place and seal it so that any thoroughfare is avoided.
After the thorough deliberations, chief minister Prem Singh Tamang made the following announcements of the state Government to deal with the current situation impacted by COVID 19:
* The state government will notify a complete ban on entry of domestic tourists to Sikkim till April 15, 2020. This will be notified on Tuesday, he informed. He also appealed to the people of Sikkim to avoid any travel outside the state, unless it is an emergency and unavoidable under any circumstances.
* All public places such as cinema halls, casinos, pubs and disco, gyms, hotels, melas and festivals, schools, colleges and universities to be closed till April 15, 2020. He added that all the students should stay in Sikkim and refrain from travelling outside the state, even if it means not travelling to their home states.
* Melli and Rangpo will be the designated checkposts for screening. Rambam, Reshi and Uttarey check posts will be closed, which will save some manpower for the two desinated checkposts.
* Tourism guest house at Rangpo to be converted into a quarantine ward. Similar arrangements to be made in Melli.
* Government will procure testing and all required equipment. Police and health departments were directed to go all out to carry out the work.
* SICB Centre in Karfectar, South Sikkim will be converted into quarantine/isolation unit.
* He declared State Level Task Force and District Level Task Force to tackle the situation. State Task Force will comprise of Principal Secretary Health, Principal Secretary Tourism and Director General of Police, while the District Task Force will be headed by the respective District Collectors. Chief Secretary will be overall incharge of the State Task Force and District Task Force.
* Pharmaceutical companies and other industrial units will also be requested to shut down, in public interest.
* Health department to procure emergency medicines to avoid any shortage in future.
* All essential and food commodities to be stored immediately to avoid any shortage in future.
* Complete ban on entry of labourers into the state.
* Government orders will be issued for all the above decisions made.
The chief minister appealed to the people of Sikkim to support the decision of the government. He said that life and health of people of Sikkim come above all else, and urged to everyone to showcase high level of resilience and camaraderie to collectively tackle this situation in the best interest of the people of Sikkim.