Assam is going through a crucial phase of the coronavirus pandemic with a massive spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state, state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. Assam reported its first COVID-19 case on March 31, and after 96 days, on July 5, when the tally stands at 11,001, Mr Sarma alerted people in Guwahati where in past 10 days the city has reported 2,700 positive cases.
"Now it's the community. Guwahati has formally entered the pandemic situation. It is becoming bigger and bigger," Mr Sarma told reporters in Guwahati on Sunday.
A total of 4,945 cases were detected in the state in the last 10 days of which, barring Kamrup (Metro), cases in all the other 32 districts - 2,204 of them - had travel history.
The Assam government on Sunday also ordered most of the departments to shut their offices in the state secretariat complex and work from field units and directorates for a week after 11 employees working there tested positive for COVID-19.
Guwahati recorded its highest spike of 777 cases on Saturday, which was about 30 per cent of all the tests conducted. The health department had started antigen tests for faster results that gives within an hour along with RT PCR tests that take three-four days. All over Assam 1,200 cases were reported.
The city is already under a "strict" 14-day lockdown since June 29, which will see "minimum relaxation" for four days from Monday (July 6) to Friday (July 10) during which only standalone grocery shops across the city will be allowed to be kept open from 11 am to 4 pm, an official order said.
Mr Sarma said the numbers will continue to spike at current rate till July 7. "We are hopeful that lesser positive cases will start coming from July 8-9. The current figures consist of the antigen results and the results of the tests taken on or before lockdown," Mr Sarma said.
State-wise, Assam has maintained a 13-day doubling rate for over 10 days. It has 4,241 active cases.
Over 3,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Guwahati since June 15, and only 14 in every 10,000 were found positive in the city, sources said. Guwahati's population is estimated at 22,90,880.
Mr Sarma had on July 1 evening said the city and its outskirts have about 1,538 COVID-19 dedicated beds of which 987 are already occupied; the health department had targeted 3,000 hospital beds by Sunday.
However, since July 1 evening, 1,872 more cases were detected, putting the state government in a fix. What's worrying is the concentration of cases of 1,414 cases per million in Guwahati, sources said. Experts believe that the denser the number of cases, the higher are the chances of community transmission.
Mr Sarma has ruled out home isolation as he feels it would not work in Guwahati. "We will give home isolation to those who can get a written consent from their residential societies that the neighbours are supportive about it. In Guwahati, home isolation might not work since the person spread in the family and the government is not in a position to arrange emergency medical care at home," Mr added.
The focus for the government remains to look for more space to isolate people. Around 1,500 hospital beds and 800-bed coronavirus care centre in a large open ground is almost full.
A 450-bed care centre at a trade centre and about 800-bed facility at IIT Guwahati campus has been made functional. Indian Railway has opened up a 120-bed facility in its Guwahati hospital. The health department plans to add 3,000 more beds by next weekend, official sources added.