Gangtok: An ‘Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav’ event in Sikkim has come under the scanner after two persons, who were part of the programme held at Manan Kendra in Gangtok on Wednesday, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state’s culture department has now been declared as a containment zone for 48 hours after the detection of the two coronavirus cases.

After the event, an officer on special duty (OSD) at the culture department who was part of the programme and a home guard of Manan Kendra tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’ is a series of events organised by the government of India to commemorate 91 years of Dandi March by Mahatma Gandhi.

Sikkim has been actively taking part in the Mahotsav, organising multiple events in various departments of the state government this year.

On Wednesday, the culture department’s Sikkim Central Library organised a story-telling event to mark the occasion. The event was attended by school students, library members and other officials, including the OSD. Despite schools being shut, students were specially called for the event, said a source.

“We couldn’t understand what was the need to organise the event when COVID-19 cases, especially of the Delta variant, have been on the rise in Sikkim. It appears the authorities were under some pressure from the ministry, as the decision to hold the event was made at the last minute,” the source added.

Another source at Manan Kendra said, “Imagine how many people must have come in contact with the home guard. He greets and meets every person that enters Manan Kendra.”

Meanwhile, culture secretary DB Rawat said that the Passport Office in the vicinity has also gone for self-containment. “Not sure about other departments but we contained ours as the gate for entry is the same for all. There are many departments in Manan Kendra but only the culture department has been contained for 48 hours. The gate is common, so sanitisation has been carried out,” Rawat added.

Also read | Sikkim: 20% of COVID-19 deaths in second wave linked to delayed hospitalisation

The secretary claimed that attendance was low as the event was some form of audition. “No one knew COVID-19 spread would happen but there were guidelines to carry out the event. The OSD attended the event. He claimed he was safe despite coming from Pakyong,” Rawat added.

The containment zone order will be lifted after Monday. “All those involved in the event will be quarantined for a week. They will not be allowed to come until then,” added Rawat.

Meanwhile, there have been some vague reports of how everyone was asked not to share or take photos at the event, as “they didn’t want the event to get public attention”, added a source.

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