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COVID-19: Assam mulls regulating entry of people after lockdown ends

Guwahati: The Assam government, which has been screening all people coming in, said on Monday it is actively considering to start a permit system for people wanting to enter the state after the 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak ends on April 14.

Addressing a press conference, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government wants to regulate the inflow of the people, including permanent residents, who are planning to come to Assam after the nationwide lockdown is over.

“We will allow phase-wise entry into Assam because if, for example 50,000 people arrive on a single day then we will not be able to handle that load as we do not have such a big quarantine facility. So we will have to sequence them,” he added.

The government will take a final call on this by Wednesday and will launch a website through which people can apply if they want to come to Assam, Sarma said.

“The Assam government is mulling to introduce an entry permit to regulate the (number of) people coming to Assam from a health point of view. It is not a restriction to come to Assam, but to rationalise the load depending on our quarantine facility,” he said.

For the people residing in other northeastern states and passing through Assam, the state may issue transit pass and every such detail will be considered once the plan is finalised within the next two days, he said.

Assam has been screening all people for COVID-19 symptoms and advising them to remain under 14-day home quarantine.

Migrant labourers, who entered the state through Sri Rampur gate along the Assam-West Bengal border after the lockdown began, have been sent to quarantine facilities at different places.

“The Government of India may have some rules, but the Government of Assam will have its own regulations. For temporary purposes, we may require an ILP-type system even for permanent residents,” Sarma said.

He said if people register online before coming in, it will help the government.

“This system will also tell us where we need to create more quarantine facilities. Suppose, if people from lower Assam come more, then we might need to create a facility in Goalparaor Bongaigaon. Similar will be the case for upper Assam too,” he added.

The minister warned of strict action if the attendees of a congregation at Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin West last month fail to report for testing for COVID-19 by the end of the day.

“The government will register a case of willful negligence against them if they do not report by today. There is a provision for that under the Disaster Management Act,” he said.

Sarma informed that though the government got information that 831 people were around the Nizamuddin area, all of them did not take part in the congregation.

“The Health Department has estimated 617 people from the state attended the event, of which samples of 128 are yet to be taken. We have spoken to the local Markaz people and they have appealed to the attendees to report. Despite our repeated efforts, if they do not come out, then we will take action,” he stressed.

Sarma said there are no new positive cases of COVID-19 in Assam and the total number stands at26.

“We have crossed the 2,000-mark in tests across our five laboratories. Out of this, 1,809 samples came negative and 165 are awaited, besides the positive ones,” he said.

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