Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said starting tomorrow onwards, the Government will reopen its borders with the neighboring NE Indian states so that the Assamese citizens stranded elsewhere can come back into the state amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
"From tomorrow onwards, we will open the border with all Northeastern states No need for passes; no need for any written documents. At the border, we will check them, and whatever is needed -- be it home quarantine or institutional quarantine, will be done accordingly as per procedure", Sarma said.
However, Sarma said that restrictions on Sikkim will not be eased as citizens stranded there will have to come via Bengal.
After a few days, Sarma added, Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) buses will be sent to several cities in the NE Indian states to bring back the stranded citizens. However, it was not specified when the buses will start plying.
Meanwhile, the Minister has pegged the number of Assamese people stranded elsewhere at 20 lakh. Sarma said that 6 lakh 12 thousand people had filled up forms to apply for financial relief of Rs 2,000. There are many who did not apply for that relief amount as many in other states are students or self-dependent people. Sarma says that there is reason to believe that such people number around 2 lakh.
There 8 lakh people more who also have their families with them, Sarma said. In all, he said, there are around 20 lakh Assamese citizens who could potentially be eyeing a return back home.
"Thus, it is impossible to bring them back. Besides, after the industries are reopened, they might not all decide to come back either", Sarma said.
At the same time, Sarma urged the people who are stuck in the hot spots to stay put wherever they are until the situation gets resolved. "We are letting them take the judgement. However, I appeal them that if they are well and if they have the means to earn money after the lifting of restrictions, they should not come back", said the Minister.
Talking on the lines of the COVID-19 cases in the state, Sarma said that out of the 42 cases that have been detected in Assam, 32 have already returned home after treatment. The state's mortality rate, Sarma said, is 2.3% -- far lesser than the national and international averages.
The Minister also informed that 10,987 samples have been tested for the COVID-19 in 6 laboratories across the state.
Encouraging private labs to conduct COVID-19 tests, Sarma also said that a Public-private partnership (or PPP), as has been adopted in Odisha, could also be in the offing. "Once people from outside return back to Assam, the testing rates will need to be upped", Sarma quoted.
At the same time, the Minister said that 2 lakh 55 thousand and five hundred people have been provided with Rs 2,000 each in their bank accounts as part of the 'Assam Cares' schemes initiated by the Government to tackle the corona challenges.
At the same time, 852 cancer and kidney patients who were undergoing treatment in other states have also been provided a sum of Rs 25,000 to aid in their treatment. Sarma also announced that 3,142 people, unable to procure medicines due to the clamping of the lockdown, have received medicines on their doorstep.
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