The Assam government on Friday asked half of its employees to work from home on a rotational basis and announced cancellation of all examinations (including board) to combat coronavirus.
However, the rotational system will not be applicable to employees in essential services like health, fire and finance departments. The heads of departments or institutions will decide on the rotation roster, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
He said any passenger vehicle found carrying passengers above seat capacity would be confiscated.
Sarma announced financial assistance of $2,000 for those unable to return home from abroad because of suspension of international flights. He said an email id would be notified so that those stuck abroad can communicate with the government. It will also help them if their passport or visa expires during this time.
The minister said residents of Assam working across the country who reach the state by train or flight from Sunday would be distinguished with stamp marks on their hands mentioning the period he or she would be required to be in home quarantine. “This will help their family and society to motivate them to be in home quarantine,” he said.
Sarma said 57 samples have been tested in the four laboratories of Assam so far. No positive case has been detected in the state so far. A 19-year-old boy from Roumari village in Kamrup district was advised 14-day home quarantine by doctors at Boko hospital on Friday.
Sub-divisional medical and health officer of Boko hospital Dr Mohitosh Banerjee said the boy had returned home from Chennai on Thursday. Although he did not have any specific symptom of the virus, he will be monitored regularly by health workers.
In Dhubri, six persons coming from coronavirus-affected states in the country tested negative after screened at Dhubri civil hospital.
Till Friday, 41 people, suspected to be affected with coronavirus, had been kept in isolation wards in the state and 1,003 were recommended for home quarantine.
Sarma said the government is assessing the situation in crowded areas like Fancy Bazar, Machkhowa and Hatigaon and may go for a shutdown of these areas, barring those dealing with essential items. Shopping malls will not be shut down but a team of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) will decide which mall can allow how many customers at a time, he added.
He warned commercial establishments: “If you want to run your commercial establishments, keep sanitiser or soap and water (for use by staff and customers). Otherwise, we will have to shut them down.”
The Assembly suspended the Speaker’s Day initiative and decided that only question hour and other important discussions on budget would be held during the remaining days of the budget session. It also cancelled visitors’ passes.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Sarma called on governor Jagdish Mukhi at Raj Bhavan and briefed him on the various measures taken by the government to tackle the situation.
The All Assam Restaurant Association said it would keep all the outlets under it shut across the state on Sunday in adherence to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed Janata Curfew. “We are not going for continuous shutdown as it will affect the livelihood of workers,” AARA president Deba Kumar Barman told The Telegraph.
The AARA requested all eateries across the state to keep adequate sanitisers for use by staff and customers, to follow basic hygiene habits like frequent hand washing and sanitising, maintaining about three-feet distance from each other and use of face mask wherever possible. It asked the outlets to avoid large gatherings till the situation was under control.
Boko MLA Nandita Das and her team distributed masks in her constituency on Friday.
In Dhubri, a district health department medical team, which reached Chagolia checkgate on Assam’s boundary with Bengal on Thursday night, screened people entering the state from 6am till 10pm in two shifts on Friday, health officials said. The Telegraph had reported in its Friday publication that people entering the state from Bengal were not being screened.
The Dhubri municipal authorities closed down 11 shops in front of the deputy commissioner’s office at Kacharighat on Friday to discourage mass gathering, Dhubri Municipal Board executive officer R.S. Javir said. The district court and other important offices are located in the area, which leads to mass gathering. He said a team of four officials would identify areas with large gatherings and work to reduce crowding.
Grocery shops, vegetable vendors and meat shops have been instructed to maintain cleanliness. The municipal authorities had earlier ordered closure of a shopping mall in the town.
Additional reporting by Hiranya Barman in Guwahati, Kulendu Kalita in Boko and Mukesh Kumar Singh in Dhubri