Assam to consider every COVID-19 case as Omicron variant

Non-vaccinated, single-dose vaccinated and children under 15 years to be compulsorily tested at airports and railway stations

The Assam government will presume every COVID-19 case to be that of the Omicron variant, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday.

Confirming nine Omicron cases in the State, most of them in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh, he said a double vaccinated COVID-19 patient recovers by the time the variant is identified through genome sequencing.

“It hardly matters which variant a person is infected with since Omicron has arrived. If a person tests positive, we will consider him or her as an Omicron case and provide care without genome sequencing,” Mr. Sarma said while announcing a new set of guidelines for containing the spread of COVID-19 across the State.

He said positive cases have doubled every two days since December 27, 2021.

“The cases are likely to peak by the end of January. Our assessment is the peak number will be much higher — 15,000 or more per day compared to an average of 6,536 during the second wave — since the Omicron variant is very light and spreads fast,” the Chief Minister said.

“Patients can be at home provided they have a caregiver, not necessarily a nurse. We will send medicine kits to the houses of patients, who will be considered COVID negative without testing after seven days,” he said.

Hospitals have been asked to release a patient without testing on day five if there are no symptoms. Such patients have to be quarantined at home for the next seven days, Mr. Sarma said.

“We don’t want hospitalisation. But in government hospitals, treatment will be payment-based except for the BPL (below poverty line). If at home, tele-counselling and medicines will be provided free,” he added.

Precautionary doses for the fully vaccinated will start from January 10, the Chief Minister said.

Compulsory testing

From Saturday, the government would be ramping up testing from the current 30,000 per day now.

The non-vaccinated, the single-dose vaccinated and children under 15 years of age will be compulsorily tested at the airports and railway stations. The double vaccinated would be asked, upon arrival, to test at home with a home testing kit or do it at any hospital, an order issued by Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua said.

Curfew timing has been increased by an hour from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Saturday and wearing of masks has been made mandatory, with the police instructed to collect fines for not wearing a mask.

Unvaccinated people have been barred from entering hotels, malls, restaurants, theatres, gyms and other such places. Owners will be held responsible and fined ₹25,000 if an unvaccinated person is allowed in.

The unvaccinated government employees have also been asked not to go to the office. They will have to avail leave, if available or go on “extraordinary leave” for which they will not be paid, the order said.

While commercial vehicles have been allowed to operate at 100% seating capacity, the number of people in conference or marriage halls has been capped at 50% of the seating capacity. For religious places, up to 60 fully vaccinated people have been allowed per hour.

Restaurants, hotels and resorts have been ordered to remain open till 9 p.m. while liquor joints have been asked to shut shop by evening.

The government has ordered holidays for students up to Class 5 till January 30. In Guwahati, where the number of positive cases is the highest, there will be no physical classes for students up to Class 8 while those from Classes 9-11 will attend school three days a week on a rotational basis.

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