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GANGTOK: After announcing travel restrictions from six states, including neighbouring West Bengal, Sikkim Government has now decided to set up a screening centre at Siliguri in West Bengal, the main entry point to the state for road, rail and air passengers.

On March 2, the Sikkim Health Department had imposed fresh travel restrictions on five South Indian states, including Maharashtra, as well as West Bengal. 

On Wednesday, while accompanying Governor Ganga Prasad for his vaccination at STNM Hospital, Health Minister MK Sharma backed the decision of setting up of a screening centre at Siliguri.

“We will set up such scrutiny, but more importantly, it is the screening from the host state that will be efficient. I am taking the entire country into account on the same. After entry to Sikkim, why screen people only at police check posts and not at the entry point itself,” Sharma questioned.

While the minister said the number of active COVID-19 cases is about to reach zero in the state, he added “We must not compromise on the safety. Travel restrictions (in the past) helped the state a lot.

Blaming other states dealing with a fresh wave of COVID-19 for not being strict enough during the first wave itself, the minister said: “When restrictions are not strong enough in the first wave, the second wave hits harder, as is affecting states like Maharashtra now. Travellers from such states will be tested before hand and will need to bring a negative report before they can board the flight and come here.”

The health minister is hopeful that early screening would help the state.

“Similar screening procedure will be followed at the Pakyong airport as well. During the first wave, the screening process was not sufficient to counter the spread of virus. But now, we are sure of where the virus is spreading, and it will be easier for the government to control this time with proper screening procedures in place.”

On the fact that fresh travel restrictions will affect the ensuing tourism season this year, the minister said: “Our first priority must be survival. When we keep Sikkim safe, we can have our own free movement without any restrictions. So, screening at Siliguri will be important. If the number of cases were to rise in Sikkim, we will also be compelled to announce a lockdown.”

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