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Assam bars unvaccinated people from public places amid sharp rise in Covid cases

The state reported 6,982 fresh positive cases on Monday as against 150 cases on Jan 1.

Written by Debraj Deb | Agartala |
Updated: January 18, 2022 10:31:08 pm
A healthcare worker collects swab sample of a person in Majuli, Assam, on Saturday. (PTI)

Amid a sharp rise in Covid cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, the Assam government has issued an order saying unvaccinated people won’t be allowed entry in public places except hospitals. The order comes on the heels of the central government’s affidavit before the Supreme Court that Covid vaccination has not been made compulsory.

As per the order, which is in force from January 15, citizens have to carry proof of vaccination while visiting public places and owners of public or private establishments will be responsible for ensuring that only fully vaccinated people are allowed inside, failing which penal action would be taken.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said Monday that people unwilling to get vaccinated should stay at home. Even as he reiterated that the vaccine is not mandatory, the chief minister said the unvaccinated can’t attend offices or public places. Sarma was quoted as saying that people may need to produce their vaccination certificates and that his government would not allow any anti-public activity.

According to the latest reports, the daily positivity rate in Assam spiked to 10.75% on Monday. The figure was 0.77% on January 1 and 7.87% on January 13. The state recorded 23,948 active Covid cases on Monday.

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Assam National Health Mission (NHM) Director Lakshmanan told The Indian Express that the state saw 6,982 fresh Covid positive cases on Monday compared to just 150 cases on January 1. “Almost all major districts had a significant number of cases including Kamrup Metro, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Cachar, Jorhat and Barpeta. There has certainly been a surge,” he said.

The guidelines issued by Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua mandated all government servants, including those on contractual and fixed pay, to be fully vaccinated and to attend office. “Employees who are not fully vaccinated… will have to avail leave, if available or extra ordinary leave for which they will not be paid salary,” the order read. Exception has been provided for patients in whom vaccination is contra-indicated as per regulations issued by the state Health Department or if certified by a doctor.

Employees engaged in essential services would be allowed to attend duty without any restrictions, including those in public or private organisations rendering essential services, law enforcement services and those engaged in poll duty. Industrial units and tea gardens were allowed to function by observing Covid-appropriate behavior.

All district magistrates and police superintendents were asked to deploy teams to enforce Covid protocol in public places. Violators would face action as per provisions of sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, besides action under section 188 of the IPC and other relevant legal provisions, the order said. The order said anyone found without face masks or seen spitting in public places would be fined Rs 1,000.

“This order is absolutely not for forceful application but to create awareness in people that everyone should take the vaccine… We are not harassing anyone who enters cinema halls, offices, malls etc… Taking this vaccine means saving people’s lives,” said Munindra Nath Ngatey, Director (family welfare). He said several unvaccinated senior citizens succumbed after being admitted to hospitals.

Over 95% people have taken the first dose of the vaccine in Assam and more than 75% have taken the second dose. The state government has administered 4 crore vaccine doses till Monday, including 2.29 crore first doses and 1.70 crore second doses. The state has also administered 56,374 precautionary doses. The NHM director said nearly 25 lakh to 35 lakh people who are due for their second dose haven’t taken it yet.

The state has declared areas with over 10 positive cases in seven days as containment zones. Emergency services would continue in these areas. A night curfew is also in force from 10 pm to 6 am. Everything except government and private offices, essential services and food takeaway services are required to close before the curfew begins.

 

While most educational institutions continue to function through online sessions, physical classes were allowed on alternate days for classes 1 and above in Kamrup-Metro district and for classes 6 and upwards in other districts. Physical classes are allowed for engineering students and final-year medical students pursuing degree and post-graduate courses if they are fully vaccinated.

No more than 200 people (who have taken at least one dose of the vaccine) can attend marriage and religious functions. Social or religious places can function with up to 60 fully vaccinated people per hour. Funeral rites are allowed with not more than 100 attendees.

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