Sikkim is all set to unlock the State borders with inter-state movement from October 1 Credit: Representational image

Gangtok: Sikkim is all set to unlock the state borders with inter-state movement from October 1. The move comes since the lockdown imposition on March 17, when the state closed its borders for international and domestic travel amid COVID 19 pandemic.

But with the unlock the threat of the virus is set to be even more, so the state health department is now opting for serosurveillance.

What is serosurveillance?

Speaking with EastMojo, health director-general Dr Pempa Tshering Bhutia admitted that despite the lockdown, containment of the virus has not been a success. He maintained that an average of 40 cases is being reported in the state with or without the lockdown.

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He then inclined on Sero-surveillance, wherein he stated, “We are trying for sero-surveillance but we need funds for it and applying to the Union Government. It shows how the community is adapting to the virus, it will have antibody testing on how people are adapting to the virus. Randomly we are taking samples from the population above the age of 5 years from every district. With that, we would know how COVID is acting in the State and spreading. It will be done in 15 days, we are selecting five districts including Gangtok owing to its population. For other districts, we will take two subdivisions from among them two villages, from among them two wards to understand the spread of the virus. Gangtok will have zonal from Arithang or Lal Bazaar choosing the hotspots, but it depends on the funds.”

On the chances of more spread of the virus with the Unlock, Dr. Bhutia admitting on the same, stated, “We are in plans to increase more quarantine centres and specifically the COVID Care Centers. There are many COVID centres but it lies in the directions of District Administration. In the East, the populous district has more than five COVID Care Centres. We have not been carrying out screening at the borders or any form of testing as previously Rapid Antigen Testing for almost a month now. The decision was taken following the directives of the Union Government on Unlock procedures. We have been urged to strictly comply on the same.”

Exit from Sikkim was mostly kept open, but now entry to the State is also being opened with no restrictions.

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On the national level, the unlock procedures have followed in every other State but Sikkim had kept his borders sealed until September 30.

However, the new set of medical protocols doesn’t include compulsory COVID 19 screening. This has been carried in compliance with the Unlock procedures issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. A notification issued by the State Health Department on Wednesday mentions the following advisories.

  1. Whoever wants to exit from the State of Sikkim, there shall be no restrictions.
  2. Returnees irrespective of any categories and tourists shall not be quarantined. However, they should visit the nearest Health Facility if they have any flu like symptoms.

The notification also ascertains that more focus will be given to symptomatic patients of COVID 19 for testing. An earlier notification from the Health Department has also asserted all the staff involved in screening at borders of Rangpo and Melli will no longer carry out screening and will resume their regular duty.

On a more rigorous testing procedure to follow, Dr. Bhutia asserted that focus will be given mostly to the symptomatic cases. “The directives are to test only symptomatic cases but in Sikkim, we are still testing primary contacts of a patient.”

Sikkim currently has a COVID tally of 2,856 cases with 667 active cases along with 37 fatalities recorded till Wednesday morning. In addition to that is 75 positive cases recorded during the day, today.

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On the pressure of more active cases being faced by the Healthcare workers in the State, he stated, “The screening workforce is being withdrawn but we are going to review in 10-15 days. If we feel it grows we might take another decision or make changes. But we will have to see how to unlock works in the State.”

On inter-state movement being more centric in Gangtok, Dr. Bhutia stated, “There might be a surge, but we cannot keep Gangtok locked. On an average 40, positive cases are coming, this being despite the lockdown in Gangtok. There was no reduction in cases in week-long Gangtok, but there was no outcome to it. We see there is no difference even after lockdown. The centre’s directive is on opening Inner Line Permit but Sikkim has refrained from the same.”

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