Assam shuts schools, colleges, cinemas till Mar 29 over coronavirus

Guwahati, Mar 15 (PTI) The Assam government on Sunday ordered closure of all educational institutions, cinema halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools with immediate effect till March 29 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

All exams, except board examinations, have been cancelled till the specified date, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said at a press conference in Guwahati.

“Even though no positive case of coronavirus has been detected in the state so far, we are taking all precautionary measures,” Krishna said. “The order will cover all schools, colleges, universities, gyms, swimming pools and movie halls across the state. We have asked them to close down till March 29.”

“All programmes scheduled at government auditoriums have also been cancelled. We hope those owned by private firms will also follow,” he said.

All the deputy commissioners have been asked to discourage any public gathering in their districts. The officials and municipal authorities have been asked to keep the market places clean and sanitised on a regular basis to prevent the spread of the disease, according to the chief secretary.

Krishna said the Northeast Frontier Railway had been asked to take necessary precautions at its facilities, including stations.

“The chief minister is reviewing the situation regularly and we have decided to issue a daily bulletin on the coronavirus scenario in the state,” he said, adding that the state government was fully equipped to handle any crisis arising out of the pandemic.

Quarantine facilities for over 800 people and isolation centres for over 100 people have been prepared at different locations in the state. Two-bedded isolation wards are established in all district civil hospitals for the same, Krishna said.

“We have also kept ICU facilities ready with more than 50 beds in medical colleges. Private hospitals have assured us of 50 beds in such unit,” he added.

Samir Sinha, the principal secretary of the health and family welfare department, said the state currently had two blood-sample testing facilities for COVID-19 in Guwahati and Dibrugarh, while the third one would be active in Jorhat from Monday.

“Six medical colleges and 25 district hospitals are equipped to handle any situation. There is no need to panic,” Sinha said. “Only the people need to follow the basic precautionary measures like social distancing and reporting to doctor if one is suffering from cough and fever.”

M Angamuthu, the commissioner and secretary of the tourism department, said the business was down by 30-40 per cent in the past month as tourists, both international and domestic, had cancelled their trips amid the outbreak of the deadly disease.

“This is the peak tourism season. On a day, 400-500 foreign and 32,000-35,000 domestic tourists come here as they also use the state for transit,” Angamuthu said. “Sadly, we have got reports that foreign travellers are being treated differently over coronavirus threat. That we should not do.”

In a presentation, the health and family welfare department showed that 1,075 passengers had been screened at six airports in the state so far.

A total of 253 travellers from COVID-19-affected countries were quarantined. Eleven blood samples were collected and 10 of them have tested negative and the report of one is awaited.

Till date, over 10,600 people have been screened and 599 people, who came in contact with positive cases, were kept under home surveillance though they did not show any symptoms.

The border districts of Baksa, Chirang, Kokrajhar and Udalguri are on surveillance and the state government has set up a control room, which has so far received more than 300 calls.

According to Union Health Ministry, the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 107 on Sunday, with Maharashtra reporting the highest, followed by Kerala. The cases include two persons who died in Karnataka and Delhi.

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