Gangtok: Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Golay, who is on a visit to South and West Sikkim districts of the state, on Saturday said that the COVID-19 spread is being witnessed more in rural areas.

Most of the rural population seems to have reached an understanding with the local administration to violate lockdown protocols, as social gatherings were seen even during that period since May 16, Golay said.

Speaking at the Namchi district administration centre, Golay said: “Many villages have seen a surge in cases. We must remain aware and not get out during lockdown. Even in funerals, there is a limit of 50 people. Yet, there are social gatherings happening in villages. The reason for spread is often social gathering, be it marriage or funerals.”

Noting that the lockdown is being taken lightly in rural areas, the CM also said that there are more asymptomatic cases now, as people are lying about their symptoms.

“It is only when they get serious that they reach for the hospital. No doctor will say that his or her patient will die, it is their profession to save the people. It has to be the carelessness of the people for reaching out for treatment only in the last stage,” he added.

He also highlighted how the local police have been aiding people to breach lockdown rules. “When the cases subside, the people come out. Despite lockdown, rural areas are seeing an increase in the numbers. BDOs and other officials must ensure strict compliance [of COVID protocols] in the rural areas,” he said.

Taking note of the success of controlling the COVID spread in the first wave and but failing to do so in the second with maximum cases being reported now, Golay said: “In the first wave, we were exemplary. People were also aware of the situation. The situation returned to normalcy by December 2020.”

But from March to May this year, we have witnessed a massive surge of COVID-19 cases, Golay said. “The ratio is very high. The spread is more in rural areas. When Lal Bazaar in Gangtok recorded a low number of cases after random testing, we were convinced that the people in Gangtok are aware and they are maintaining lockdown protocols,” he said.

Talking about how complaints have come from district hospitals over lack of facilities there, the CM said: “Namchi District Hospital was previously awarded Rs 30 crore. Now, another Rs 50 crore has been granted for various infrastructural developmental projects from operation theatres to others. However, those may take up to three years to complete.”

Also read: Is Centre giving ‘misleading’ data on vaccine availability in Sikkim?

Golay said that the state government has opened ICU centres in every district. “We also have oxygen plants for every district now. We have manpower including nurses, medical officers, drivers, attendants, and safai karmacharis, 78 of whom were hired this week for different hospitals. All requirements are being fulfilled. Geyzing was given 1000-litre capacity oxygen plant, but we said we do not want so much for one district. So, give the same to STNM Hospital. We have also been sanctioned smaller oxygen plants for every district,” he added.

Commenting on the various health infrastructure being added by the state government, Golay said: “There were no ventilators or oxygen support when we formed the government. Now, we have a plant generating 500 litres of oxygen per minute in Gangtok.”

Talking about the new projects being set up in the state, Golay said an oxygen plant generating 1000 litres of oxygen per minute has been sanctioned at STNM Hospital, which is now being set up. “Another one is coming up in Geyzing, which has a capacity of 200 litres per minute. Namchi and Singtam will have also have plants generating 500 litres per minute of oxygen,” he said.

Meanwhile, among the notable recoveries, Golay said, is Governor Ganga Prasad who got better in the state without seeking any outside help. “Our legislator Kunga Nima Lepcha also recovered in the state. Many of our ministers and legislators also got better here being treated by our own doctors,” he added.

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