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Gangtok: The opposition Sikkim Democratic Front has warned that Sikkim is heading towards a “genocide” over the government’s lack of COVID-19 management policy.

Taking the reference of the High Court of Sikkim slamming the state government for failing to devise a policy even for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s request to the HC for time till August to frame a policy to tackle a third wave, the SDF asserted that the state government has failed on all fronts.

Addressing the media through a press conference, SDF spokesperson MK Subba urged the state government to wake up to the high positivity and death rates along with low recovery rate in the state. “We have learned that the state has requested the High Court of Sikkim for time till first week of August to frame a policy to manage a third wave of COVID-19. It is evident that the state government doesn’t have a policy to tackle the pandemic even after 16 months,” said Subba.

While the rest of country is already preparing for a third wave of the pandemic, Sikkim is yet to get out of the second wave, which has taken over 177 lives since April, said Subba. “Sikkim has failed since the first wave of the pandemic,” he added.

Subba gave an example of the government’s bad management of COVID-19 even in recent times. “At a time when we have the highest positivity rate, the state has opened its borders for tourists. Even in the second phase, many tourist movement in place like Pakyong Airport were not accounted for. This resulted in the Delta variant of COVID-19 entering Sikkim,” Subba said.

“There were a few other variants too. Now, with tourists and border relaxation, the Delta Plus variant which is part of the third wave has already reached Tripura. How long will it take for the new and deadlier variant to enter Sikkim with border relaxation and tourist entry?” he questioned.

Commenting on the high positivity rate in Sikkim, which is one of the highest in the country, the SDF said it was all due to lack of infrastructure development and unorganised administrative decisions. “It is clear that in terms of infrastructure to tackle the pandemic, Sikkim has only one COVID-19 hospital and a VRDL lab. The testing numbers for COVID-19 are lowest in the country, while the positivity and death rates are the highest,” said Subba.

While the Centre has placed a COVID-19 budget of Rs 23,123 crore to tackle the pandemic, the same is being carried out in a phase-wise manner here, said Subba.

“Sikkim has not come up with a policy even for the first phase, while other states are already eyeing for the second phase of funding keeping them fulfilled till 2024. With the same funding, we could have developed infrastructure including testing facilities in other districts,” Subba said.

Meanwhile, the SDF also highlighted how it has been writing to the Centre since 2020 for external medical intervention in the state. The party claimed that its request for experts’ intervention has finally become a reality with the Centre identifying Sikkim as one of the eight states in the country with high positivity rates of COVID-19.

“What we had been highlighting to the state and Central government is finally coming to fruition. The Centre has already decided to send its COVID-19 management team to bring down the positivity rate in the state,” said Subba.

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The Sikkim government had 16 months to look into the concern but it focussed more on administrative decisions including the lockdown which has resulted in economic meltdown in the state, said Subba.

“Had they devised a medical policy and implemented the same in the state, perhaps our situation would not have been worse. We are one of the worst functioning states in COVID management. We are the ones with the least number of testing. Somehow, the data being debated by the state is wrong,” said Subba.

Meanwhile, the opposition party has demanded ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh each for COVID-19 victims of Sikkim. It has also urged the state a government to provide jobs to the next of kin of COVID-19 victims on compensatory grounds.

So far, 315 COVID deaths have been recorded in Sikkim, of which 177 were reported in the second wave of the pandemic. The opposition party quoted the verdict of the Supreme Court of India while placing the demand for ex gratia amount, claiming that the state needs to allocate funds for COVID-19 victims.

“The government needs to identify those children who have been orphaned by COVID-19, provide them with monthly stipend along with provision for free education. There have been a few fatalities that have been recorded among healthcare workers. They must be given Rs 1 crore as compensation. There must be a proper survey of those 315 victims so far and how their lives have been affected by COVID-19,” added Subba.

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