Coronavirus outbreak: Assam schools, colleges, universities shut till March 29, exams postponed

Tora Agarwala
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Apart from education institutions, cinema halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools will also be closed. (Representational)

The Assam government has announced the closure of all schools, colleges and universities across the state till March 29, as a precautionary step to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19. Apart from educational institutions, cinema halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools will also be closed.

The order signed by Preetom Saikia, Commissioner & Secretary to the Government of Assam, said that "Elementary and Secondary schools and Higher Educational Institutes and Universities" will be closed  "in public interest, as a precautionary step to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19."

"Ongoing Board/Council/University Exams will continue as per schedule" the order stated.

“We have no COVID-19 positive case so far,” said state chief secretary, Kumar Sanjay Krishna during a press conference on Sunday. However, the preventive measures come in the wake of COVID-19 cases rising around the country.

Between January 28 and March 14, 1075 passengers have been screened, 253 are under home observation and 11 people have been admitted to the hospital in Assam, according to the state bulletin on COVID-19.

When a 76-year-old tourist, who had travelled through Assam, was tested positive in Bhutan last week, the state embarked on contact-tracing, or tracking all those who had come into contact with the tourist during his week-long visit. “599 who came in contact were identified and kept under home surveillance as they are asymptomatic. Five of symptomatic patient’s samples were tested and were found negative” stated the bulletin.

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The Deputy Commissioners (DCs) have also been directed to discourage public gatherings, so there is less “social contact”. Krishna said that over 100 isolation centres were ready, 50 Intensive Care Unit beds were in place and a tie-up with private hospitals had ensured access to 50 more beds. Rapid Response Teams have been constituted in all districts and have been trained and oriented.

The Sports Authority of Assam has suspended its coaching activities till March 29. “It has also suspended its gym and swimming pool operations” said a press release. The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has also decided to immediately withdraw blankets and curtains that are provided in AC coaches from service till further orders. “Special emphasis on frequent disinfection of coaches are being given in coaching depots under all the five divisions of NFR,” said Subhanan Chanda, Chief Public Relations Officer, NFR in a press release. “1122 bedded isolation ward facilities have been kept ready in different hospitals in the jurisdiction of NFR for keeping patients in quarantine in case of any suspicion.”

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Currently there are two centres to test COVID-19: Gauhati Medical College & Hospital and Regional Medical Research Centre, Dibrugarh. One more is coming up at the Jorhat Medical College. All immigration Land Check Posts (LCP) have been sealed apart from three (Mankachar and Sutarkandi on the Indo-Bangladesh border, and Darranga in Indo-Bhutan border) which are still functional. Medical teams are stationed in these posts.