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Assam to put $2000 in accounts of residents stuck abroad, stamp those coming in

Assam to put $2000 in accounts of residents stuck abroad, stamp those coming in

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Friday announced a $2,000 monetary relief measure for those residents who had travelled abroad from the state in the past 30 days and were now "stuck" with no way to come back home. This was among a slew of measures announced by the health minister.

"Many Assamese may have travelled out of the state — either as a tourist, or for work (maybe training, workshops, seminars)— in the past 30 days. However, now due to the outbreak and recent rules announced by the government, they are unable to come back," said Sarma.

"To help them, we will release an e-mail ID in the next two days. These people can write in to us, with a copy of their stamped passport. We will deposit $2,000 in their accounts as a gesture from our side. If someone's VISA or passport has expired, they can inform the government, and we will take it up with the Indian embassy," Sarma added.

Sarma also said the Assam government has advised the Election Commission (EC) to defer the upcoming Bodoland Territorial Council election scheduled for April 4. In the interim, campaigning too is advised to be put on hold. Shortly after, the Assam Election Commission officially announced that the elections were postponed.

Till March 31, government departments will have only 50 per cent employees attending office on a daily/weekly rotational basis. "The balance 50 per cent will work from home. This will be implemented in a rotational basis," said Sarma, adding that the announcement does not apply to employees in essential services like health, fire, electricity and water. "The treasury and finance department will also work in its full strength," he said.

Similar to the 'stamping' exercise by Maharashtra to check the spread of coronavirus, Assam too will do the same to anyone who enters the state — either by rail or by air — from March 22 onward. "Anyone who enters Assam — either by rail or by air — will be stamped with the words 'Assam needs social distancing, so I volunteer to be home quarantined upto 'date'," said Sarma. "The date will correspond to 14 days after the person entered Assam. This applies to all incoming passengers who have stayed outside for 'sufficient' time."

While the government has already directed educational institutions, museums, libraries, coaching centres, barber shops, bars and pubs in the state to shut till March 31, Sarma said private commercial establishments will risk facing closure, if they do not stock hand santiser or hand wash in their premises. "Health inspectors will start doing the rounds from tomorrow," he said. The government is also assessing crowded areas in Guwahati like Fancy Bazar, Machkhowa, Hatigaon. "We have advised them to decongest. In the next few days, we will decide if they need to be temporarily shut. This will not apply to essential services in the area," he said.

While shopping malls are not closed yet, the authorities have been instructed that not more than 50 people can be in the mall at a given time. Sarma also announced that all buses, and public transport, will ply only with seated passengers. "No one is allowed to stand and travel," he said. All exams have been postponed till March 31.

Assam has not reported any positive COVID-19 case so far. "Out of the 57 samples tested so far, none are positive," he told reporters, "We advised home quarantine to 1,003 people. Out of them, 168 have completed the mandatory 28-day period. Around 41 people are in isolation in various hospitals around Assam," he added.

Assam has four testing laboratories: Gauhati Medical College & Hospital, Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh and Jorhat Medical College & Hospital and Silchar Medical College. "In the coming days, many people from Kerala, Bengaluru and Delhi will be returning to Assam. So next 14 days are very crucial for us," he said.

(INputs and image from theindianexpress.com)

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