Assam will insist on quarantine for all passengers coming by air, its Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said today, making it clear that the BJP-led state would chart its own course in the matter. The view is divergent from that of the Central government, which opened up air travel yesterday. Flights, which had been grounded since the beginning of the countrywide lockdown in March, will start from May 25.
Today Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Puri said quarantine of passengers on domestic flights will have to be dealt with in a "pragmatic manner" and such measures are not required for "short-haul flights".
Quarantine will be dealt with in a pragmatic manner. We can't have 14 days' quarantine, it is not practical," the minister said. "Why are we making a fuss on quarantine? Positive cases won't be boarding," Mr Puri said today, though he admitted that there can be asymptomatic people.
Mr Sarma told NDTV, "Assam government follows a policy of ruthless quarantine, whether a person comes by air, rail or road. Fourteen days' quarantine is a must. However, it might be equally distributed between government quarantine and home quarantine".
The crew members, however, will be exempt. The state, he said, will not quarantine any crew member "even if there is a layover".
Coronavirus numbers in Assam have doubled in just four days from 100 to 204. Out of the 204 cases detected so far, 112 are people who have returned to the state, the health minister added.
The state currently has 142 active cases, while 55 have recovered and three migrated to other states while four have died.
Assam recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 31 and it took another 37 days for the figure to reach 50 on May 7. It doubled to reach the 100-mark in 10 days on May 17, according to health department records.
Explaining why Assam is working on a strict quarantine regime, Mr Sarma added that, "we are majorly dealing with imported cases from South and West India."
Assam has witnessed a spike in the number of cases ever since the inter-state movement of people was allowed and the Shramik trains started to reach.
"We expect more than 12 lakh to come back, this is just the tip of the iceberg," Mr Sarma added.
Mr Sarma says the only way he feels "community transmission" of the virus can be averted is by "strict quarantine."
The Assam government has also come up with a new quarantine policy as districts will no longer be marked as green, orange or red zone unless there are 200 cases in a single district. The state will follow a containment and a buffer zone nomenclature, Mr Sarma added.