Himanta urges people not to return, says Assam ‘not safe’ now  

Minister to request states to bar buses flouting norms from plying

GUWAHATI: With COVID-19 positive cases rising by the hour in Assam, state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has appealed to the stranded people to stay put in their respective states for now, as “the current situation in the state is not conducive” for them.

The overall tally of persons infected with the virus crossed 300 by Saturday evening, with a majority of the infections being detected among returnees under quarantine, prompting the health minister to make the request.

“Assam is not safe now and so those planning to return to the state should change their decision for now. Besides, I would urge people to refrain from travelling in trucks and buses as we have noticed that commuters do not maintain physical distancing during such journeys and get infected with the virus,” Sarma said.

The minister said that he would request the governments of other states to disallow permission or passage to Assam-bound buses not adhering to social distancing norms.

“States from where these overloaded buses and trucks originate particularly should see to it that the vehicles are not permitted to ply if they do not adhere to the safety protocols,” Sarma said.

He cited the instances of the state government taking initiative to bring back hundreds of students stranded in Rajasthan and Gujarat by bus but strictly adhering to the COVID-19 safety protocols during the long trips through various states.

“We have even taken utmost care to bring cancer patients to the state as well by bus, and barring seven, none of them have been infected with the virus,” he said.

The minister said the health authorities in Assam were up against a bigger challenge than ever now.

“In just a matter of a few hours till afternoon today, we have had as many as 60 COVID positive cases. Seven were detected in the morning while among the 53 detected in the afternoon, 44 of them are from the Sarusajai quarantine centre. For the first time, we have had seven cases from Dima Hasao district today,” he said.

Along with the spike in COVID cases, another cause of some concern is the patient load on MMC Hospital, which however will be shared with the opening of two dedicated COVID-19 facilities in Kalapahar and Sonapur from Saturday evening.

“We have no beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients as of now at MMCH. The critical cases are being taken care of at Guwahati Medical College Hospital. However, by evening, a 120-bed hospital at Kalapahar will be ready to function,” he said.

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