Coronavirus: Sikkim, Tripura latest NE states to announce closure of edu institutions


Gangtok, March 16:

Sikkim and Tripura are the latest Northeastern states to announce closure of educational institutions and other public gatherings in view of global coronavirus outbreak.

In Sikkim, educational institutions will be closed till April 15 while in Tripura, institutions will remain closed till March 31.


Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang (Golay) chaired a high-level meeting of all Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, State Administration led by the Chief Secretary, and various stakeholders of the hospitality sector to deliberate on immediate measures to be taken by the State to prevent the outbreak of Novel Corona Virus (COVID 19) in the State of Sikkim.

It may be mentioned that the State of Sikkim has not reported a single case of COVID 19 till date, and the Government is taking all possible measures to prevent any outbreak. 

Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim, S.C Gupta gave an overview of the current situation, how the Government of Sikkim is managing the situation, and further steps needed to be taken to handle it effectively.

He stressed that the rate at which the virus is spreading exponentially, there is no room for any complacency. He however maintained that there is no need for any panic either. 

The Chief Secretary explained in detail the initiatives being taken by the Government at various levels, starting with the screening of visitors and commuters from the State borders.

He stressed on the need for community surveillance, responsible use of social media, medical training and preparedness of medical staff deputed.

He said that the quarantine wards at old STNM, New STNM, CRH, Ayush Hospital Geyzing, Namchi District Hospital, Army Hospital, seem adequate for the time being. He however proposed to convert Government establishments in the outskirts or slightly isolated places into isolation wards to cater to a larger population. 

He further said that in order to check contamination within a territory, several countries and states have called for temporary shut down of institutions etc.

Keeping this in consideration, he proposed for closing down of educational institutions for a certain time. Likewise, we could put a temporary ban or embargo on entry of any tourist or visitor to the State in public interest, he added. 

He suggested for shut down of Gyms, Cinema Halls, other public gatherings, government meetings, melas or religious congregations. 

All District Collectors are adequately equipped to issue necessary orders, he added.  He added that SDRF funds can be used for procurement of essential commodities and equipments. 

Principal Secretary, Health, K. Srinivasulu, briefed about the state of preparedness and measures being taken to contain the situation. He stressed that since COVID 19 has been declared as a global pandemic, there is no other option but to contain and exercise self quarantine. He also appealed to the people to exercise hygienic practices, especially in poultry farms and slaughterhouses. 

DG-cum-Secretary, Health, Dr. P.T Bhutia in his address briefed about the current status of initiatives being taken by the State Health Department. He reiterated that this is a pandemic, and support and cooperation is solicited from all departments and concerned stakeholders to contain the situation. Speaking about the screening process, he said that the we need additional manpower from NGOs. He informed that Civil Defence is already in place. He informed that the Urban PHC (Old STNM) has been designated as quatantine ward, and has adequate space. However he requested the SDRF to take over the place and seal it so that any thoroughfare is avoided. He informed that the State Health Department is technically prepared. He submitted the unavailability of sample testing facility in Sikkim, thus causing delay in confirming the test reports. He stressed that social distancing is the key for the time being. He requested for some mobilization fund for the health staff and officers to carry out the work effectively. 

Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism Department, Dr. K. Jayakumar, stated that the preparedness in place and future plans for containment is fully justified considering the exponential spread of the virus globally. He proposed for some moratorium in loans being taken by individuals from the hospitality sector to compensate the economic distress they would be facing. 

Supplementing on the points discussed earlier, Dr. Jayakumar said that there should be strict enforcement of any measures in place such as screening, shut down and self quarantine. He also stressed on the need for extensive awareness at the community level through various modes apart from social media. He stressed on the need for Quarantine enforcement team, home and community care givers, screening team, control centre, reporting/notification of symptoms, advocacy, educating stakeholders like drivers and service sector people, hospital care, ventilator and ICUs, and temperature measuring machines.

He shared a five point strategy  of strict enforcement- Detection, Contact tracing, intensive medical care, supplies & disposals, and control room with designated team.

This was followed by an open house discussion which was participated by officers and stakeholders. 

Stakeholders like TAAS, SAATO, SHRA and Driver Associations expressed their support to the decision taken by the Government. They also expressed their readiness to contribute manpower as volunteers at various screening points. They also announced that they would contribute atleast two number of thermal screening equipment to the Health Department. They urged the Government to ensure that all infrastructure should be established within the period of shut down, so that once the situation comes to normalcy, tourists and visitors should not feel apprehensive about travelling to Sikkim. They unanimously welcomed the Government's decision to intensify the process for the overall safety of the people of Sikkim, and assured their full support at various stages. 

Officers of the State Government also participated in the discussion and made their submissions. 

Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Jacob Khaling shared some of the suggestions put forth by the people of Sikkim through various media. 

He suggested for constitution of a State Task Force to monitor the situation on a daily basis. 

MLA, Martam Rumtek, Sonam Venchungpa, made some suggestions to ease the process of screening. He also suggested the Tourism Department and stakeholders to come up with effective communication strategies to manage the situation so that the brand value of Sikkim is intact. 

Additional Chief Secretary, Finance & Planning, V.B Pathak informed that an amount of Rs. 55 lakhs has been contributed by the Future Gaming Group and its MD S. Martin towards the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. He handed over the cheque to the Chief Minister. 

Chief Secretary, S.C. Gupta summed up the open house discussion wherein he called for considering legal aspects while taking decision on shut down of educational institutions and other bodies. 

After the thorough deliberations, Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang made the following announcements of the State Government to deal with the current situation impacted by COVID 19. These decisions are being made in public interest which is inevitable at this point of time, he said. He appealed to the people of Sikkim to take these decisions positively, because nothing is more important than public health and life. He said that Sikkim is fortunate to have not a single case of Corona Virus, but we should take all possible precautionary measures:

  1. The State Government will notify a complete ban on entry of domestic tourists to Sikkim till 15th April, 2020. This will be notified tomorrow, he informed. 

He also appealed to the people of Sikkim to avoid any travel outside the State, unless it is an emergency and unavoidable under any circumstances. 

  1. All public places such as Cinema Halls, Casinos, Pubs and Disco, Gyms, hotels, Mela and festivals, schools, colleges and Universities to be closed till 15th April, 2020. He added that all the students should stay in Sikkim and refrain from travelling outside the State, even if it means not travelling to their home states.
  2. Melli and Rangpo will be the designated checkposts for screening. Rambam, Reshi and Uttarey check posts will be closed, which will save some manpower for the two desinated checkposts. 
  3. Tourism Guest House at Rangpo to be converted into a quarantine ward.

Similar arrangements to be made in Melli.

  1. Government will procure testing and all required equipment. Police and Health Department were directed to go all out to carry out the work. 
  2. SICB Centre in Karfectar, South Sikkim will be converted into quarantine/isolation unit.
  3. He declared State Level Task Force and District Level Task Force to tackle the situation. State Task Force will comprise of Principal Secretary Health, Principal Secretary Tourism and Director General of Police, while the District Task Force will be headed by the respective District Collectors. Chief Secretary will be overall incharge of the State Task Force and District Task Force. 
  4. Pharmaceutical companies and other industrial units will also be requested to shut down, in public interest. 
  5. Health Department to procure emergency medicines to avoid any shortage in future. 
  6. All essential and food commodities to be stored immediately to aviod any shortage in future. 
  7. Complete ban on entry of labourers into the State.  
  8. Government orders will be issued for all the above decisions made. 

In conclusion, the Chief Minister appealed to the people of Sikkim to support the decision of the Government. He said that life and health of people of Sikkim comes above all else, and urged to everyone to showcase high level of resilience and camaraderie to collectively tackle this sitation in the best interest of the people of Sikkim.