GANGTOK: Sikkim reported 70 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, pushing the state government to make negative RT-PCR report and other travel restrictions mandatory for tourists who wish to enter the Himalayan state.

COVID-19 cases have seen a spike over the past few days, with Sikkim now reporting 218 active cases.

The 70 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday were reported mostly from populated East Sikkim‘s urban areas at 51, with 122 active cases currently in Urban East Sikkim. West Sikkim reported 13 cases on Sunday, with 29 active cases at present. South Sikkim recorded 6 new cases with 28 active cases and North Sikkim has five active cases.

At least 15 people have been admitted in ICUs with COVID in hospitals across Sikkim at present. The positivity rate is about 12.2 percent currently, even as Tourism Minister Bedu Singh Panth tested positive on Sunday.

To counter the spread, Sikkim government has brought back its ‘odd-even’ rule for vehicular traffic and mandated negative RT-PCR report to enter the state among other restrictions in the fresh Covid-19 guidelines issued on Monday.

Sikkim has revised guidelines for those entering Sikkim in view of the increasing Covid cases in the country and amid Omicron scare, a Home department order said Monday.

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The new guidelines will come into effect from January 10 and remain in force till January 24. To ensure fewer people on the roads, the government has decided to allow vehicles with even and odd registration numbers to ply on alternate days.

The commercial goods vehicles, vehicles engaged in essential services, security and army vehicles and government vehicles on official tours are exempted from the restriction.

In regard to the inter-state movement of vehicles, there is an exemption for registered luxury taxis.

The Health department will also organise Rapid Antigen Test at all check posts and Pakyong airport, in addition to the mandatory negative RT-PCR report, which should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to entry.

Drivers, conductors and helpers of commercial and passenger vehicles will be exempt from the requirement subject to RAT of all such individuals once every seven days. State Transport department has been directed to organise the RAT in consultation with Health department.

The workers and officials engaged in Railway projects, power projects, etc. who commute daily across the border shall be exempt provided the concerned agency engaging such workers ensure RAT for such individuals once every week.

The Labour department has been tasked to conduct and ensure registration of all labours entering the State, fulfilling the requirement of negative RTPCR report.
The workers and technicians engaged in various projects and pharmaceutical units will be permitted to enter by concerned district collector on case of case basis, the order adds.

While allowing all factories and production units including pharmaceutical companies to operate with 100 per cent manpower, the government expects the management to ensure the Covid-19 protocol is followed by all.

In case of government offices, the State has restricted attendance at government offices, boards and corporations to 50 per cent of the total strength.

Schools and colleges will function as per the guidelines of Education department and HRD ministry, the order said.

All sporting, competitive events will be deferred, as social, religious, political and sports related gatherings have been prohibited.

Authorities have also revoked the formerly eased restrictions and have decided to cap the number of people in wedding ceremonies to 50 and the number of people allowed at funerals to 20.

Pubs, discotheques, cinema halls and other similar places of entertainment along with restaurants, fast food centres and other eateries will have restricted entry as they will operate at 50 per cent capacity. Home delivery of food items shall be permitted.
Shopping malls and showrooms will also have restricted entry of 50 per cent capacity. Gyms, spas, beauty salons and barber shops can operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Likewise, hotels, homestays and guest houses will be allowed to operate with 50 per cent capacity with strict adherence to Covid-19 protocol.

These guidelines have been issued after an emergency meeting chaired by Chief Minister on Saturday.

Sikkim has so far not reported any cases of the Omicron variant. However, several samples have been sent for genome sequencing in December, a health department official said, adding that all tested positive for the delta variant.

Forty-five new cases push Sikkim’s COVID-19 tally to 32,649



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