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Covid test for Assam tea garden workers

Move to prevent pandemic spread in labour colonies; focus on traders and their staff too
Apart from garden workers, the state government is also focussing on testing traders and their employees here.

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 30.07.20, 04:37 AM

Dispur has ordered testing of tea garden workers for Covid-19 to prevent the pandemic, which has infected over 35,000 people in Assam, from spreading to the labour lines in the state.

The urgency in conducting the tests has to do with the sharp spike in cases this month, mostly in people without travel history. So far, 69 tea garden workers have tested positive, of whom 26 have recovered. There is one casualty, officials said on Wednesday evening. There are 8,238 active cases in Assam while 92 patients have died.

Labour commissioner Ghanshyam Das issued a directive to officers on Tuesday, saying the Covid pandemic had moved from “bad to worse” in all the 33 districts and the “danger” of its spread among garden workers’ colonies is highly probable.

“If for any reason there is a community spread in the labour lines it will lead to a major catastrophe as the present medical facility available is not sufficient to cater to a pandemic situation,” Das said.

Industry sources said there were 676,835 garden workers as on January 1, of whom 385,612 are permanent.

“If we add their family members, the number is quite significant. And since they live in close proximity, the urgency and worry is justified. A few people have already tested positive. We feel this test drive should have been launched once the stranded people started returning home in mid-May,” a source said.

Das has asked the labour officers and inspectors to coordinate with the district administration and the tea management and unions to carry out the tests as soon as possible so that infection, if any, could be contained at the outset.

Das has also sought a daily report. “We are keeping a close watch on the tea sector,” he told The Telegraph.

Apart from garden workers, the state government is also focussing on testing traders and their employees here.

Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma held a meeting on Wednesday with leading business organisations and leaders in the commercial hub and asked them to get themselves and their employees tested by August 10.

Sarma said after the meeting that the tests were important to restore normalcy.

“Or else we will see shops being open on one side of the road and shut on the opposite side. For shops to open on both sides we need shopkeepers and traders to test themselves and their employees by August 10 to check the spread of the virus,” he said.

Kamrup Chamber of Commerce president Mahavir Jain added that the minister has also said “we need to adhere to preventive measures such as social distancing norms and wearing of masks. One of the suggestions was we should not entertain buyers/customers who don’t wear masks”.

Jain said the minister has also agreed to convert Rituraj Hotel in Fancy Bazar into a Covid hospital for vegetarian patients, under the supervision of GMCH.

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