GUWAHATI, April 23 - Despite being a favourite tourist destination, Sikkim does not have a single coronavirus case till date and the main reason for it is the fact that the State Government started the fight against the disease much before the Central Government started issuing advisories in this regard. The Government of Sikkim is also taking steps to boost the rural economy during the lockdown period.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, SD Dhakal, who is the secretary to the Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang said that the State Government started taking initiatives to fight the disease even before the Centre started issuing instructions and so far, the State has not recorded even a single case of coronavirus.
He said that the Chief Minister reviewed the situation way back on March 2 and instructions were issued to the tourists to leave the State and on March 4, the foreign tourists and trekkers, who were in Sikkim were asked to leave. All the places of tourist attractions were closed on March 4 to prevent gathering of people and all the hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, schools and colleges etc were closed from March 17.
From March 2 , medical teams and police started checking all the entry points to Sikkim and medical tests of all people entering Sikkim started.
After all the tourists left the State, one German tourist entered Sikkim from Bhutan and he was tested. It was found that he was not affected by coronavirus. Dhakal said that along with the inter-state borders, the international borders with Nepal, Bhutan and China were also sealed and tests of people living in the inter-state border areas were carried out. Any person suffering from flu, cough and cold are being quarantined in the hospitals and tests are being carried out. Dhakal said that so far, Sikkim does not have any testing laboratory and the samples are being sent to North Bengal Medical College. However, he said that the Chief Minister has written to the Centre and Sikkim is likely to have its first testing laboratory soon.
Dhakal said that the medicine manufacturing companies are functioning with adequate precautions and the raw materials and other essentials are being transported from outside with full precautions. The trucks carrying the same are being sanitized at the inter-state borders. Interestingly, Sikkim does not allow drivers from outside to enter the state and local drivers are used to drive the trucks from the inter-state border gates. �As Sikkim does not have a single case as of date, there is no shortage of PPE kits and the local drivers are using it to drive the trucks into the state from the inter-state gates. These are washable kits and they can be re-used,� Dhakal said.
The Secretary to the Chief Minister admitted that as tourism is one of the major source of income, the State may face problems. But at the same time, he said that efforts are on to ensure that the rural economy is not affected. Sikkim has agriculture and horticulture producers groups and they have their own vehicles, which are used to transport vegetables and fruits to the markets. The Government is providing Rs eight per litre extra to the milk producers who are selling milk to the milk producers union. Essential items are also provided to the labourers and there is no shortage of food grain.
Dhakal said that Chief Minister is personally monitoring the situation and he is visiting all parts of the State to assess the ground situation.