Guwahati: The Assam government is planning to impose restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus once the Centre issues directives on the 21-day total lockdown scheduled to end on April 14. An online registration process similar to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system would be initiated for people returning to Assam from other parts of the country.
Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said that a temporary system would be started, through which even permanent residents will require permits before entering the state. The government plans to launch a website in this regard in the next few days.
“Depending on Centre’s directive, we will launch a website for registration in 3-4 days. If someone wishes to return to Assam, they will have to first register themselves. This will also give us an idea of the number of people living outside the state. If lockdown is extended, we will have to think about them,” said Sarma.
While a structure is still being worked out to limit the number of people availing flights or trains to return home, the risk of contagion for those availing public transport to travel within the state would require the government to set up quarantine facilities close to their ‘geographical location’, said the health minister.
“If the lockdown is withdrawn, we will have to find out if we can afford 1,000-2,000 people from outside the state returning on daily basis. Not everyone would have the facility to be home quarantined, and we would have to know their geographical location to set up quarantine facilities close to their place of living,” Sarma said, adding that the government is planning for phased entry of people.
“The state government must have an arrangement to facilitate their return when lockdown ends. If around 50,000 people want to return, we cannot let them enter Assam together. On April 15, we can allow 5,000 people, another 5,000 after two days, and this pattern could be followed depending on the number of people who are willing to get back home. But if they don’t follow the system, all measures undertaken so far to contain the spread will go waste,” explained Sarma.
The state government has also sought suggestions from public to help find a solution.
“Restriction of movement for a long time may be difficult. But people on roads may be persuaded to use masks and gloves as well as maintain social distance. In trains and buses also, use of facemask and gloves may be enforced. Even use of berths or seats may be suitably staggered by the authorities,” said former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka.
“Lockdown cannot be indefinite as it will have disastrous economic consequences. Risk will always be there. Areas where active cases have been detected may remain in quarantine till signs of new cases come down to zero,” he added.
Till the time of filing this report, Assam recorded 26 positive cases of COVID-19, and 25 of these patients have traceable travel history to the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi’s Nizamuddin.
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