The Man of the Moment: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Ensuring Assam is ahead of other states in combating Covid-19
The total number of Coronavirus cases in India has climbed to 873 today; more than 140 cases were reported from the various parts of the country on Thursday — the highest official single-day count so far.
Out of the total patients 47 are foreign nationals. In such a scenario when there is an outbreak of the disease across the world, Assam has not yet reported a single positive case and the state is prepared to combat the disease even if there is any positive case detected in the state or if there is an outbreak.
The pro-activeness of the state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is being lauded from all corners as the minister is not only known for his political strategies but for his efficiency in work as well.
The leader of opposition Debabrata Saikia, talking to G Plus said, “I am happy with the initiatives taken by the state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to combat the disease.” But Saikia was also quick to add that the other departments of the state government lack coordination.
Similarly, a prominent activist and senior journalist, Manjit Mahanta, who is known for taking anti-government stands has also praised the health minister saying, “With the limited resources at his disposal the health minister is doing a great job.” He also asserted that the coordination between other departments of the government should improve.
More than 5,00,000 people around the world have now contracted the novel Coronavirus. Over 83,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the US, higher than China, Italy or any other country which have faced the brunt of the disease. The US has recorded 1,178 deaths, while the global death toll stood at 23,293.
Starting from Tuesday midnight, India came under a 21-day lockdown in its attempts to curb the spread of novel Coronavirus. Only the essential services like grocery shops, medical outlets remain functional during the lockdown. But comparing the preparedness of Assam against other states, Assam looks far better than all.
India is not testing nearly enough to rule out community transmission, reported by media on March 19, 2020. If the country’s testing numbers are not consistent with the rest of the world then India needs to do better, said Om Shrivastava, an infectious diseases specialist at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai.
Since then, India has expanded the testing criteria so that in addition to people who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days, contacts of confirmed cases, and symptomatic healthcare workers, patients with severe acute respiratory illness (who have fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) and people who have no symptoms but are in direct and high-risk contact with confirmed cases, can get tested. India has also opened more testing centres to take the number to 131.
Yet, states with higher populations than Assam are conducting fewer tests. For instance, West Bengal which has a population of 91 million has so far tested just two persons per million people. Odisha, home to 42 million people, has conducted only three tests for a million people.
As far as testing centres are concerned, Assam is doing better than others.
Assam has lesser population (3.10 crores) than many other states but has 4 testing centres and two more hospitals (Tezpur and Barpeta hospitals) will soon start testing taking up the number to six.
Being the national capital, Delhi has only 2 testing centres. Maharashtra, which has the highest number of Covid-19 positive cases, also has just 2 testing centres. Tamil Nadu has 4, Uttar Pradesh has 3, Uttrakhand has 1, West Bengal has 2, Madhya Pradesh has 2, Kerala has 4, Karnataka has 5, Gujarat has 2, Haryana has 2, Himachal Pradesh – 2, Jammu & Kashmir - 3, Jharkhand - 1, Odisha – 1, Punjab - 2 and Bihar - 1.
In northeast, Manipur has 2, Tripura has 1, Meghalaya has 1 and all other states are depending on Assam which is set to have 6 testing centres. In the northeast, 2 positive cases have been reported, one in Manipur and one in Mizoram. The samples of the Mizoram patient were tested in Guwahati. According to sources, Assam government even helped the Mizoram government in tracing the people who were in contact with the Mizoram patient who tested Covid-19 positive.
The health minister also came up with imaginative strategies like stamping all incoming passengers (both national and international) so that after coming to Assam, they remain quarantined for 14 days and even observed if they generate any Covid-19 symptoms.
Even before the Prime Minister announced a lockdown, the health minister did it but after Modi’s announcement the lockdown announced by Himanta Biswa Sarma just got extended.
The Assam government has further started making dedicated Covid-19 hospitals. Also, all the government hospitals will treat only Covid-19 patients while all other diseases will be treated by private hospitals. For making the Covid-19 hospitals, the government is not depending on the Centre; rather it is creating its own funds by seeking helps from all the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha members of Parliament for their funds, business people and all the government employees. Within 7 days many dedicated Covid-19 hospitals with ICU and ventilators will be readied to combat the disease. Other states in the country had started acting only after they reported Covid-19 positive cases but Assam is prepared even before reporting a single positive case.