Guwahati: Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government would abide by the Centre’s call on lockdown as public health is more important than economy. He was responding to a question by CNN-News18 on lifting of the 21-day total lockdown in the country.
Having spent sleepless nights overseeing and monitoring healthcare services in the state, Sarma said if the curfew has to be lifted, it has to be done in a phased manner.
“So far, the situation is under control. We haven't seen the spread of the infection. But, if you withdraw the lockdown, and if people come out for day-to-day business, we cannot say what will be the situation. There are lakhs of youth working outside the northeast -- they are our children. When the lockdown is lifted, they would want to return to their state, and they would all be coming from places that are now hotbeds of the coronavirus infection.”
The Assam government was earlier planning to initiate an online registration process similar to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for people returning to the state from other parts of the country.
“This call has to be taken very seriously. It will be a difficult call to choose between public health and economy, but I would like to go with the view that public health is more important, as of now, than economy,” said Sarma.
The state reported its first COVID-19 death on Friday. A 65-year-old patient from Hailakandi district, who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event at Nizamuddin Markaz in New Delhi last month and had tested positive on Tuesday night, passed away around 1.55am at the Silchar Medical College Hospital. The man had recently returned from Saudi Arabia.
With this, the state now has 28 active cases of which 27 are related to the Nizamuddin congregation.
“It has been an arduous task. Despite repeated requests, the cooperation has not been the way it should have been. There is still a tendency to conceal certain information. Nevertheless, we have identified 99% people who returned from Nizamuddin,” Sarma said.
Over 2,650 samples have been tested in Assam, so far, with the government planning to go for rapid testing in rural areas. The situation remains critical in the minority-dominated areas of Assam.
Besides Assam, Manipur and Tripura have reported two positive cases each, while Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram have reported one case each.
According to health officials, at least four-five patients from Assam, the first COVID-19 patient from Manipur and the only patient from Mizoram to be infected by coronavirus are on their way to recovery.