Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on April 3 said that there was no need to wear face masks as COVID-19 disease is “not there” in the state.
The minister, who was not wearing a mask, when asked about the COVID-19 spread in Assam, said: “There is no need to wear a mask as of now. COVID-19 is over in Assam and we should not create panic. This could be an interim relief, but once there will be a requirement, I will let the people know and then we can enforce wearing of masks.”
He added that at present people should focus on reviving the economy that was badly hurt due to the nationwide lockdown. “How will beauty parlours do business if we enforce wearing of masks at a time when COVID-19 is not there in Assam. We should not create such a panic situation,” he added.
When asked about Centre’s repeated notifications on wearing of masks and ensuring physical distancing, Sarma said that in context of Assam, those rules may be relaxed as COVID-19 is not there anymore. “Centre is free to issue guidelines but in the context of Assam, as on date COVID-19 is not there,” Himanta Biswa Sarma replied to The Lallantop.
“We have seen COVID-19 closely for a year now. This could be an interim relief for Assam or could may well be a permanent relief. The day we will see more than 100 fresh cases daily in the state, I will do a press conference and ask people to follow the norms. Why create a panic situation now,” Sarma said.
The minister’s statement was panned by the social media as ‘irresponsible comment’. Later, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter to justify his position. He tweeted: “Those who are making fun on my statement on mask, must come to Assam and see how we have contained COVID-19 in compare to the states like Delhi, Kerala, and Maharashtra along with impressive recovery of our economy. We will celebrate Bihu also with the same enthusiasm this year (sic).”
Those who are making fun on my statement on mask, must come to Assam and see how we have contained COVID-19 in compare to the states like Delhi, Kerala, and Maharashtra along with impressive recovery of our economy.We will celebrate Bihu also with the same enthusiasm this year
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) April 4, 2021
Assam on April 3 reported 68 fresh cases of COVID-19 while the total number of active cases climbed to 598. The day before, the state reported 63 fresh cases. On April 1, there were 58 fresh cases.
In contrast to health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement, his department has issued a fresh notification on April 3 for mandatory RT-PCR testing of air travellers arriving in the state from Mumbai and Bangalore if they are not carrying a negative report which could be verified by QR code.
For railway passengers arriving in Assam, rapid antigen tests will be conducted on random asymptomatic passengers. Those with symptoms will be mandatorily tested.