Assam will impose a fine of Rs 500 on those not wearing a mask in public authorities said. From Friday, the Assam Police can charge this fine based on The Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 (sections 3). “In case people do not have store-bought masks, they can also cover their faces with Assamese traditional gamosa, home-made covers or handkerchiefs,” said Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, during a press conference in Guwahati on Friday, “As long as they noses and faces are covered when in public places.” This fine will apply to those who have masks hanging around their necks too, said Sarma.
The minister also announced a ‘Community Surveillance Programme’ to check COVID-19 spread at the village level. As a part of this, health workers will visit homes to identify flu-like cases/respiratory symptoms.
“Covid and flu symptoms are the same,” said Sarma, “In one month, our health care workers will cover 25,000 villages. We will look for people with Influenza like illness (ILI) and respiratory infections so we can identify and test them,” he said. The health workers will also look for symptoms of malaria and Japanese Encephalitis (JE) which are common diseases in Assam.
The government also announced compulsory institutional quarantine for those residents entering the state from ‘red zones’ in other parts of the country. “Any person returning from red zones will be put into compulsory institutional quarantine for three days even if they are asymptomatic,” said Sarma, adding that this was decided after a person tested positive in Assam’s Cachar district on Thursday after travelling in a bus — with 43 passengers — from Ajmer to Silchar.
He said that the government will stagger the number of people entering the state, adding that it will be done on the basis of a pass system.
Sarma warned the public to be aware even if the lockdown was gradually lifting in the state. The state has so far reported 49 cases of COVID-19, with 14 active cases, 34 recoveries and one death.
Education reforms: summer holidays May 1 – 31, labs to open for research scholars
Sarma also announced a number of steps the state’s Education Department was considering. He said that the government will soon take a call on whether the school calendar should be rescheduled due to COVID-19 lockdown.
“Instead of January 1 to December 31 (Assam is one of the few states to follow this calendar) — we are considering extending the academic year to March 31,” he said. If it comes into effect, Assam will follow the April 1 to March 31 calendar like in other parts of the country. This is so as to mitigate the academic losses students have faced due to the lockdown.
The government has also notified that the summer vacations will be considered from May 1 to May 31, in view of the lockdown.
Sarma also announced that students will receive digitised marksheets (instead of the usual hard copy distribution) for their Class 10 and Class 12 board results, which is scheduled to be announced in June. “The admissions to colleges will also be based on digitised mark sheets,” said Sarma, adding that admissions will happen online.
The government is also relaxing rules for research scholars (especially in the field of science). They will now be able to go to laboratories in their colleges or universities for research work, if required. “For such scholars, going to labs is necessary, so we are opening the laboratories even if universities and colleges will remain closed,” he said.
The Assam government will also be giving financial assistance to those students returning home from other parts of the country. While the cost of the journey will be borne by the students, the government will be giving cash assistance depending on which part of the country they are coming back from. Those returning from West and South India will get Rs 5,000, those returning from North India will get Rs 3,000, and those returning from East India will get Rs 2,000. The students can register themselves at 18003453525 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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