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Coronavirus, Assam Suspends Classes In Primary Schools In Districts With Over 100 Cases

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Assam Suspends Classes In Primary Schools In Districts With Over 100 Cases

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was talking to reporters in Guwahati (File)

Guwahati:

Primary schools and classes in all Assam districts reporting over 100 active coronavirus cases will remain closed till further notice, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state’s Health Minister, said Saturday.

Mr Sarma told reporters the government had also passed an order allowing authorities in these districts to fine people – Rs 1,000 – found without face masks in public places.

“In view of the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases and the threat it poses to the well-being of small children, classes of all primary-level schools will remain closed in all districts with more than 100 active cases,” Mr Sarma said in Guwahati.

“Classes in other districts – which have less than 100 cases – will continue for now, following all COVID-19 protocols,” he added.

The orders comes after 20 students from Kamrup (Metro) district tested positive for the virus over the past two months, forcing school administrations to opt for online classes.

While still a far cry from peak daily cases in August, September and October last year – between an estimated 2,700 and 3,500 cases per day – the trend is worrying.

On April 1, 49 new cases were reported in 24 hours. A week later that number was 195 and two weeks on it was 385. This evening 573 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours.

More than half of the cases reported today – 245 – were from Kamrup (Metro) district.

Experts fear the caseload could increase further in the days after widespread campaigning for last week’s Assembly polls – for which rallies and roadshows were held with no social distancing and at which many, including political leaders and government figures, were without face masks.

A more serious problem is that children – below 18 – have not been cleared to take the vaccine currently on offer for adults over 45, prompting concerns from parents and school authorities.

Two days after Assam’s third and final phase (April 6) Mr Sarma ruled out the possibility of a night curfew or a lockdown, something which a number of other states have now enforced.

“… need to panic but should remain alert…” he said.

Mr Sarma also said the state would celebrate Bihu – a traditional harvest festival – and that the necessary safety protocols would be followed.

These protocols and the timing of their release, however, have triggered a row between the state and organising committees, which say the rules are unrealistic and were ignored by political parties, including the ruling BJP, while campaigning.

The Health Minister was criticised for controversial comments made earlier this month – he said: “There is no Covid in Assam… there is no need to wear a face mask now in Assam… ” He later defended himself, pointing to the state’s relatively better record at containing the pandemic.

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