GUWAHATI, June 11 - Tackling COVID-19 pandemic and floods together posed major challenges for the State administration, but so far everything is going smoothly and all out efforts are made to reduce the sufferings of the people, said Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna. He also pointed out that the health care facilities improved considerably and there is no reason for the citizens to panic.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Chief Secretary admitted that fighting the pandemic was a major challenge for the administration and unfortunately, the State had to deal with the first wave of floods at the same time, while, swine flu outbreak in a few districts compounded the problems.
Sanjay Krishna pointed out that fighting COVID-19 was a challenge for all the states and no state had the experience of dealing with such a situation where a lockdown had to be imposed. He revealed that apart from fighting the disease, the administration had to deal with many other issues like imposing the lockdown, ensuring availability of all the essential commodities, bringing back stranded people from outside, providing assistance to the needy, ensuring that the people coming from outside are properly quarantined and checked etc and all those issues posed new challenges every day.
A high level committee headed by the Chief Secretary and comprising senior officers of the concerned departments including police was formed and for the first two months, the committee used to meet every morning to discuss all the related issues and immediate steps were taken to deal with those. The committee is now meeting once a week and if any urgency crops up, it meets immediately. After the meetings, directives are issued to the concerned Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police. Even during the lockdown, the State did not face any shortage of essential commodities.
The Chief Secretary said that bringing back stranded people from outside was also a major challenge for the administration and a committee comprising two senior officers Additional Director General of Police � GP Singh and Harmeet Singh, was formed to monitor the process. �We had to be in constant touch with other state governments in this regard. Moreover, we had to be in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs to bring back the people stranded outside the country,� he added. The people had to be properly checked and quarantined after they reached Assam and that also posed a major challenge.
Sanjay Krishna pointed out that gradual opening of the lockdown was also a challenge. First the agriculture and tea sectors were opened up and the administration had to ensure that proper social distancing was maintained. In the next phase, the mills were opened , which was followed by industries. The industry owners and managers were asked to give an undertaking to maintain social distancing and to keep the labourers at one place.
The Chief Secretary revealed that the health care facilities improved considerably during the COVID crisis and ICU facilities have been created even in the district hospitals. The testing capacity improved tremendously and now the State can test more than 6,000 samples a day.
At a time when the State was fighting the pandemic, the challenge of floods came. More than two lakh people in eleven districts were affected by the first wave of floods. The Chief Secretary said that as there was a threat of COVID-19 cases going up during the floods, a detailed standard operating procedure was sent to all the districts on creating and maintaining relief camps for affected people by maintaining social distancing and hygiene. Fortunately, there was no report of COVID-19 spread from any of the relief camps. Funds were made available to the Deputy Commissioners in advance to provide relief to the flood hit people. The Deputy Commissioners were also directed to check the quality of rice to be distributed among the affected people and the relief and rescue operations went on smoothly as it was a well planned affair.
Special measures were taken to ensure proper dissemination of information to the public at the time of crisis and Sanjay Krishna said that on his part, he tried his best to be accessible to anyone in need.