As 21-day coronavirus lockdown enters final week, Assam govt plans staggered entry of travellers; entry permits to be issued

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 14 April

Karishma Hasnat April 07, 2020 08:41:47 IST
As 21-day coronavirus lockdown enters final week, Assam govt plans staggered entry of travellers; entry permits to be issued

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 14 April. An online registration process similar to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system will be initiated for people returning to Assam from other parts of the country.

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Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said that a temporary system would be started, through which even permanent residents will require permits to enter the state. The government plans to launch a website in this regard in the next few days.

"Depending on the Centre's directive, we will launch a website for registration in three to four 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.

As 21day coronavirus lockdown enters final week Assam govt plans staggered entry of travellers entry permits to be issued

File image of Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. PTI

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 will require the government to set up quarantine facilities close to their 'geographical location', said the state health minister.

"If the lockdown is withdrawn, we will have to find out if we can afford 1,000 to 2,000 people from outside the state returning on daily basis. Not everyone has facilities to be home quarantined, and we will have to know their geographical location to set up quarantine facilities close to their place of living," Sarma stated, adding that the government is planning for a phased entry of people.

"The state government must have an arrangement to facilitate their return when the lockdown ends on 14 or 20 April. Suppose around 50,000 people want to return, we cannot let them enter Assam together — on 15 April, 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 wish to get back home. But if they don't follow the system, all measures undertaken so far to contain the spread will go to 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 mask and hand gloves as well as maintain social distance. In trains and buses also, the use of masks and gloves may be enforced. Even the use of berths or seats may be suitably staggered by the authorities," said former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka.

"A 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.

As of the time of writing, Assam had recorded 26 positive cases of COVID-19, and 25 of these patients have a traceable travel history to Delhi's Nizamuddin.

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