Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addressing a press conference in Guwahati on May 14

With Guwahati registering a spike in COVID-19 cases from its business hub Fancy Bazaar area, the Assam government is preparing for a mass contact tracing of people who had visited the area in the past week, including using mobile phone surveillance, if more positive cases are detected from its vicinity.

Addressing a press conference in Guwahati on May 14, state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We detected 15 COVID-19 cases on May 13 as a result of contact tracing of one person who had tested positive the day before. He was a worker in a godown in Fancy Bazaar area and all those who tested positive later were mostly people of the godown or working nearby.”

He further said, “We tested 32 swab samples through contact tracing of that first patient and found 15 positive patients. We have now traced 342 people from these 15 positive patients, and if a sizeable number of these people also test positive, we could have to increase our surveillance in the area.”

“We have already asked the police to request the mobile phone companies to prepare the list of phone numbers that were traced in that area in last 6-7 days. And we also request the people who had visited that area in the past week and have any kind of symptom, to kindly register themselves in the state helpline number 104, so that we can help them, if the need arises,” the minister added.

On the seven returnees from Mumbai who tested positive in Guwahati on May 14, further pushing up the overall tally of the city, he said, “As most of these returnees were cancer patients and were coming from Mumbai, it was expected that some could bring the virus. Seven of the patients and their attendants have tested positive now, and we have shifted them to hospital already.”

Out of 86 novel coronavirus patients detected in the state, 29 have been detected in Guwahati and five containment zones are in force in the city.

On possibility of change in categorisation of zones from ‘green’ to ‘orange’ or ‘red’ depending on number of positive cases, Sarma said the state government was not in favour of such zones.

He said, “We do not want to follow zones as it is a misnomer. We have recommended to follow the policy of containment and buffer zones. The question of livelihood of the people is also there. We should contain that area; in rest, we should follow guidelines like wearing masks, physical distancing, etc.”

The minister further informed that out of 2,000 samples collected from Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Guwahati after a junior doctor had tested positive, only two have been found positive so far, and results of about 100 samples are awaited.

“It is a relief for us as doctors of GMCH can resume work again,” he added.

Out of the 86 cases detected in the state, 40 people have recovered while two others have died so far.

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