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Tea estates in Assam are witnessing a spike in number of COVID-19 cases as the second wave of the viral infection has hit the region.

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Health department officials on May 8 said that over 500 tea garden workers are infected by the virus. They said that after the detection of the viral infection in many workers, several measures have been taken to check the spread of the virus, including setting up of containment zones and ramping up testing facilities.

According to the officials, till May 8, at least 503 tea garden workers in many estates under 14 districts have been detected with COVID-19. These districts are – Dibrugarh, Biswanath, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Golaghat, Lakhimpur, Tinsukia, Udalguri, Charaideo, Kamrup (Metro), Baksa, Darang, Dhemaji and Sivasagar.

The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has urged the state government to urgently organise COVID-19 vaccination camps in the tea estates.

In a letter to principal secretary, health and family welfare department, and in separate letters to all the 34 deputy commissioners, NETA has requested to protect the tea garden population from the second wave of the pandemic by organising vaccination camps urgently in the tea gardens.

NETA adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said that two tea estates in Dibrugarh district have been declared containment zones, recently.

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“Last year, the tea gardens did not face such problems like this time. Therefore, before things go beyond control, setting-up of vaccination camps in the tea gardens is of utmost importance. NETA has assured to fully cooperate with the government in organising the COVID-19 vaccination camps,” Barkakoty said.

The industry body has also undertaken a massive awareness campaign among the workers and their family members to check the spread of the disease.

Tea estates have a large concentration of workers and were until recently largely unaffected by COVID-19.

The industry body, Tea Association of India (TAI), had earlier said that the crop prospect in the current season in Assam and West Bengal looks bleak due to the drought-like situation prevailing in both the states.

TAI secretary general PK Bhattacharya had said that due to the prolonged period of lockdown, the tea industry in Assam and Bengal lost around 140 million kg of made tea last year.

Assam has over 10 lakh tea garden workers in the organised sector working in 850 tea estates.

The state roughly accounts for 55 per cent of India’s total tea production.

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