Assam has to strike a balance between its financial and public health concerns, state Finance and Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told The Indian Express on Monday, as the state implemented additional restrictions in its green zones over and above the ones advised by the Centre.
“Actually we are trying to strike a balance between financial and public health of the state to mitigate people’s suffering. We believe that we have to take care of both the economy and public health. Normalcy will not return immediately — we will gradually try to bring normalcy. But in the meanwhile, we should make sure that public health concerns should not go away from people’s minds,” Sarma said.
Sarma said that the additional restrictions implemented by the state government are the best possible ways to check the spread of COVID-19. “We hope that the measures we have taken will help us attain this balance. But there are challenges —like the new rules of allowing inter-state buses and trains. The coming days will be crucial for Assam. Government of India and Government of Assam are putting in their best efforts,” Sarma said.
Four districts among the 33 in the state have been designated orange zones while the rest are green. Authorities had said on Sunday there will be no relaxation in restrictions in orange zones while there will be additional restrictions in green zones — like a night curfew from 6pm to 6am across the state
“In our four orange zone districts, finances are obviously suffering — but if you do not implement the strict measures, people in other districts will suffer too,” Sarma added.
According to the norms, standalone shops are allowed to open till 5 pm in green zones whereas in locations where shops are adjacent to each other, only one-third can open in a day. Moreover, haats and bazaars, including weekly markets, shall remain closed. Liquor stores in green zones are open.
“So far, the financial health of the state is fine. Practically speaking about revenue, we got nothing in March and April. You cannot compare your revenue with March-April of 2019, you have to compare with March-April of this year. So opening at least 30% is good for us — we will earn something more than March and April,” Sarma said.
Over 12,000 samples have been tested in Assam as of now. Of the 42 patients who reported positive in the state so far, 32 have recovered and been discharged, while one patient died. Apart from the currently functioning six government labs that are testing COVID-19, private labs in Assam are being encouraged to start testing facilities so that the state’s testing capacity goes up.
Around 20 lakh people from Assam are in other states and they might head back home. Authorities have urged those who do not have a very pressing reason to return to the state to stay where they are. Those who do not return — or find it difficult to return due to logistical or other issues — would be given a financial assistance of Rs 2,000 per month by the state government.