Assam government on May 12 announced imposition of strict 14-days quarantine for people who return to the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that only those showing symptoms will undergo swab testing while everyone will have to mandatorily quarantine.

“Till yesterday we had an impression that only one train will come. But last night, as per information from the Railways, this train (a New Delhi-Dibrugarh special train) will run daily for one week, with about 1000 people coming in each day,” he said.

“It is not practically possible to test each person as it will take months for results to come. Only symptomatic passengers will be tested. But how do we ensure public health? The alternative is strict 14 days quarantine,” he added.

The minister also pointed to the additional thousands of tests that have to be done on people detected with respiratory problems and influenza-like illnesses under a special village –level surveillance programme launched by the government to tackle novel coronavirus pandemic.

The health minister informed that 7782 people with fever have already been identified in 10,000 villages under the programme so far, and about 20,000 villages are yet to be covered, adding that swab testing of these people have to be done as per protocol.

On the arrangements for quarantine of the returnees through train, Sarma said respective districts will take their people from the railway stations and keep them in facilities at the district headquarters.

“When the district headquarters’ capacities are saturated, we will have to move to the third tier of quarantine facility that would be at the assembly constituency-level. The chief minister will write to all MLAs to arrange for this. The hospitals form the first level of quarantine, and district headquarters are the second tier,” he said.

A large number of people from neighbouring states are also arriving in these trains and they will be taken to their home states by the respective state governments, he added.

He further said the facilities at the quarantine centres may not be as desired by many and asked those returning to the state to be prepared to stay in these centres with whatever arrangements the administration can make.

The minister informed that the state government has requested for Shramik Special Trains from Bangalore, Chennai, Gujarat and Mumbai, but confirmation is yet to be received. The Railways will bear 85 per cent of the cost of tickets of these trains and rest will be paid by the state government.

He said the other states are pressuring the host states to bring back their people as those states are already hard-pressed to make medical arrangements for their people and people from other states prove to be an additional burden under this situation.

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