The COVID-19 situation in Guwahati, where 2,741 fresh cases were reported in the last 10 days, is alarming and may worsen if the restrictions imposed are not followed seriously by the people, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday.
Assam recorded its biggest single-day spike in COVID- 19 cases on Saturday, with 1,202 new infections, of which Guwahati accounted for 777 cases. The state has reported 11,001 cases so far.
Guwahati, which is under a 14-day lockdown since June 28, has reported 2,741 new cases since June 24 and "by and large all of them are from the community", the minister told reporters here, indicating community transmission of the viral disease.
"We have formally entered the pandemic stage in Guwahati with these 2,741 cases. Earlier, most of the patients were people with travel history, so the pandemic was in the states from where the returnees had come but now, it is here," he said.
The state government has allowed "minimum relaxation" in Kamrup (Metropolitan) district, under which Guwahati falls, from Monday and "hopefully, people will be more careful when they come out to buy essential commodities so that the situation does not worsen further," Sarma said.
The administration made partial modifications to the order passed on Saturday, allowing certain relaxations during the ongoing lockdown in the city, including the opening of standalone grocery shops from Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 4 pm.
In the previous order, such shops were allowed to open only on Mondays and Wednesdays.
"The 14-day lockdown in Kamrup (Metropolitan) district was absolutely necessary otherwise the situation in Guwahati would have turned into a catastrophe," he said.
The minister blamed a section of the media for leading a "misinformation campaign" against the disease and trivialising it as "something akin to normal cough and fever and this has led to the rapid deterioration of the situation in the city".
"This created a sense of complacency among the people and they moved around carelessly without taking necessary precautions after Unlock-1 was announced, " he said.
"This was a politically motivated move so that people stay away from tests and also to demotivate doctors and other health personnel who are working tirelessly to serve humanity," Sarma said.
The minister asserted, "We will, however, remain committed, responsible and work with determination in our fight against the pandemic and will overcome it."
He said allegations like COVID-19 patients not being attended to properly by doctors and nurses, not being given food on time or hospitals being unclean are "absolutely baseless".
"I had visited the ICU ward of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where serious patients are being treated. I had also met patients in the general ward. Nobody had any complaint and on the contrary, they were full of praises for treatment and facilities," Sarma said.
There were also allegations from certain quarters that many people who tested positive for COVID-19 were shown as having tested negative for the infection and vice versa but there were only 49 such cases in the state, accounting for only 0.0001 per cent of the total tests conducted, the minister said.
"This was just a human error by data entry operators while making entries of the more than four lakh test results," he added.
Sarma appealed to the people to be "very careful and responsible" during the lockdown relaxation this week.
"We will analyse the situation and take a decision on whether to extend the lockdown or strike a balance between the economy and health of the people," he said.
Assam has tested 4,55,223 samples for COVID-19 so far, and is fourth in the country in tests conducted per million population after Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Sarma said.
With 6,743 people getting cured of the disease, Assam has a recovery rate of 61.29 per cent while the mortality rate is 0.13 per cent with 14 deaths so far, he added.