Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister PS Golay on Sunday gave a nearly 50-minute live address on Facebook detailing to the people of the state the steps taken by his government to contain the spread of coronavirus aka COVID-19 and the ongoing 21-day lockdown over the pandemic.
Golay repeatedly appealed the people of Sikkim to remain confined indoors and to cooperate with the state government as social distancing is the only known method to break the chain of coronavirus.
“During this lockdown, people are facing many difficulties. There is no vaccine so far for coronavirus; the only option now is to maintain social distancing. Hence, I appeal everyone to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus and follow the orders given by the state government. We are working hard but we need the support of the people to tackle this virus. Everyone will be affected if we don’t follow the orders and stay indoors,” he said.
Condemning some of the efforts made my a section of the people to to ‘politicise’ the crisis, Golay said the time is to stay united. He stressed that the Sikkim government is fully prepared on both fronts – to medically tackle coronavirus and to ease public hardships during the lockdown period. He maintained that the Sikkim government had taken preventive measures much earlier than the rest of the country when early reports of coronavirus in Wuhan, China started coming in.
“I had directed the health department to start screening of people at the check-posts starting January 28. We did this at a time when no other states were taking such preventive steps. We stopped entry of foreign tourists to the state from March 5 and then entry of all domestic tourists from March 17,” said Golay. This was followed by intensified screening and documentation of arrivals at Rangpo and Melli checkposts and closure of other border entry points.
To a question how capable is Sikkim, should any coronavirus case came up in the state, the chief minister said that the state government is fully prepared for such a situation. “Our mechanism is ready,” he said, detailing the medical infrastructure in place. There are 166 beds ready to take up coronavirus cases at STNM hospital, 20 beds at CRH, Tadong and 41 beds at the Army hospital in Libing, he added.
Golay shared that STNM Hospital has 55 ventilators, CRH and the Military Hospital have two ventilators each. He also informed about the quarantine centres established by the Centre at SIRD Karfectar, Minging Ground near Rangpo, Power Guest House at Nayabazaar, and SICUN training centre, Assam Lingzey.
The chief minister dismissed claims that the health workers are facing a shortage of PPEs (personal protective equipment) and other gear. “There are 1,220 PPEs ready with the government but if we start wearing PPEs now, at the present situation, people will unnecessarily panic and hence, we have not started doing so,” he said. He maintained that there is sufficient medical items as required by the health workers and those deputed in essential and emergency services.
Golay also said that there are sufficient food grains available and godowns that can last for three months for the entire population of the state.
Regarding students and professionals from Sikkim currently stranded in other parts of the nation during the lockdown, the chief minister appealed them to stay at their respective locations since no inter-state movement is allowed now. “We are in touch with our students and people who could not return home before the lockdown started. We are talking with the respective governments to provide facilities to our people. I have written to every chief minister of the country and have requested them to take care of our people,” he said.
Golay shared details of the economic and food relief packages announced by the state government for the BPL and underprivileged sections of society affected by the lockdown. The food relief package is also for those workers from outside the state currently working here, he said. He cleared that the relief package is not for government servants.
The CM also took up questions fielded by the citizens and the media. One question was whether the state government could opt for mass testing for coronavirus based on reports that a Pune-based company has developed testing kits at affordable rates.
Golay replied that if the report can be confirmed, then the state government will definitely do testing of the entire population in Sikkim.
Regarding whether the lockdown will be extended, Golay said it will depend on the situation after April 14.
There was also a question on providing monetary relief to small entrepreneurs and those dependent on tourists who have taken a hit due to coronavirus and lockdown. On this, the CM said the government will consider this in the coming days. “We cannot say at the moment how long this situation will last,” he said.
A question was placed whether the state government can consider taking volunteers or senior medical and nursing students as a backup force in the present situation. To this, the CM said the state government will take up this suggestion. “We welcome anyone who comes out on a voluntary basis,” he said.
The CM stressed that the state government has not allowed anyone to enter Sikkim through the check-posts during the lockdown barring transporters bringing essential and medical supplies. He added that he will be addressing the people of Sikkim on social media after every three days to inform them about the steps being taken by the state government.