GANGTOK: The Sikkim government has decided to impose travel restrictions from six states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka and West Bengal due to an increase in the number of fresh coronavirus cases in these states.

Principal Secretary (Health) K Sreenavasansulu said the decision has been taken in view of the increasing cases of the mutant virus and difficulties faced by other states in containment of the same.

“The five states in South India and West Bengal will be included in travel embargo to Sikkim. It is mandatory for any person coming to Sikkim from these states to be RT PCR negative. We won’t consider the Rapid Antigen Test,” Sreenavasansulu said.

Noting that thousands of young people from Sikkim are students at various colleges in South India, Sreenavasansulu made clear the restrictions have been imposed on everyone coming from these states.

“Sikkim has worked hard to reach a single digit in the number of COVID cases. Now our vaccination drive is working well and there is no urgency in Sikkim. But, as a precautionary measure, we will be issuing the order on travel restrictions today,” Sreenavasansulu said.

To enforce the same, Health Department will depute officials at Siliguri in West Bengal to check on individuals coming from the aforementioned states.

“When people reach Siliguri, it remains untapped as to where they are coming from. Hence, we will establish a mechanism for scrutiny of such people entering Sikkim. The same will be discussed with the Chief Secretary today,” he said.

The government will also impose similar restrictions at Sikkim’s Pakyong Airport.

“We already have a medical team at Pakyong, but more importantly, SpiceJet Airlines has been taken into confidence to impose restrictions on individuals travelling to Sikkim without the RT PCR negative certificate. Those without the negative certificate will not be allowed to board the plane,” the principal secretary said.

Also, the RT PCR negative test certificate must be done within 72 hours of an individual reaching Sikkim from the restricted states.

Meanwhile, the State Health Department has initiated second phase of vaccination for senior citizens above the age of 60 years and those with co-morbidities within the age bracket of 45 years to 59 years from March 1.

The vaccination drive is currently underway at the STNM Hospital, which is being flooded by the elderly for vaccination, a department official said.

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