Assam bears double ‘brunt’ of deluge, Covid-19
Assam’s Covid-19 count galloped to 1,024, with the detection of 144 new cases on Friday, leading chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to describe the prevailing situation as “extraordinary” as the state was bearing the “brunt” of floods as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
According to health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, six of the new patients are air travellers who recently came back to Assam, but he did not reveal the identity or their place of origin. With these six cases, the total number of infected air travellers in the state has reached eight. The first patient returned on Monday. All of them are in hospital and their contacts placed under quarantine.
Urging everybody to work as a team and help the people to get rid of this situation, Sonowal said in Golaghat that in the absence of any antidote against coronavirus, social distancing is the only means through which human lives can be saved and appealed to mediapersons to generate awareness so that people adhere to the norms in the fight against Covid-19.
Keeping the rising cases in mind, the government on Friday opened two hospitals, including the first super-speciality Covid-19 hospital in the Northeast in Guwahati. This hospital has 236 beds, including 50 ICU, and it can treat symptomatic and serious Covid-19 positive patients. The hospital is expected to be fully operational by Monday.
The Guwahati hospital has an air-conditioning system, which would be sanitised by a specific ultra-violet ray device. The hospital, which has been built at a cost of Rs 150 crore, can deal with every complication related to Covid-19.
The other 200-bed hospital was opened under Tezpur civil hospital and will be converted into a mother-and-child hospital once the Covid-19 crisis ends. Sarma has said the state has facilities to treat as many as 5,000 cases on a day, if the situation turns worse.
The rising cases also saw Sarma say the state needs to return to normal life in a staggered manner. He said schools will be reopened from June 15 for classes X and XII, and not from June 1 as was initially thought. He also said Dispur would prefer to continue with the night curfew, from maybe 9pm instead of 7pm.
According to Sarma, since most of the stranded people will return by June 15, there should not be a problem in reopening schools, which are being used as quarantine centres. Those coming after June 10 will be quarantined in hotels.
Sarma also said the decisions on the extension of lockdown and easing of restrictions will be taken by the Centre and the state will abide by it.
The Telegraph had reported on Wednesday that the government should not rush into reopening schools and colleges and expose students and teachers to the coronavirus.
On the other hand, Sarma will visit Upper Assam’s Golaghat district on Saturday, following the rapid increase of active cases and the beds at the civil hospital, which has been converted into a Covid-19 hospice, filling up.
Golaghat deputy commissioner Bibhash Chandra Modi confirmed Sarma’s visit.
A source claimed the minister will take stock of the situation at the Covid hospital as well as measures taken in the quarantine centres.
With 16 new cases, the total increased to 150 in Golaghat on Friday, of which 141 are active cases. The new patients include a six-year-old girl.
District information and public relations in-charge officer Papu Gogoi said the new patients were sent to Jorhat Medical College and Hospital as the beds at Swahid Kushal Konwar Civil Hospital are almost filled up. A total of 111 patients are under treatment at SKKCH against 120 beds.
Hospital superintendent Dr Uttam Prasad Dutta said the nine remaining beds are reserved for the patients in the isolation wards.
Additional reporting by Sanjoy Hazarika in Bokakhat