Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Health, Finance, PWD, and Education Minister in Assam, has threatened that a Coronavirus quarantine centre in Guwahati will be converted to temporary jail if people keep demanding to go out against medical advice. The minister made the comments after some people kept in the quarantine centre at the Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati threatened to launch a hunger strike on a Facebook live post.
Yesterday, several residents of the Sarusajai quarantine centre, all of whom either attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi or came into direct contact of such persons, alleged that they were served substandard food at the quarantine centre in a Facebook live session. They also claimed that they are unable to sleep in the facility due to mosquitoes, and said that they want to leave the centre and go home as they have already spent 14 days in the centre. They added that if they are not allowed to go, they will launch a hunger strike.
Reacting to such protests at the centre, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that if the inmates continue their Facebook live protests, the govt will declare the quarantine centre as a temporary jail, and everyone will be kept there for 3 months under non-bailable sections. He said that nobody will be allowed to leave the centre until doctors allow them to go, and no protests will be tolerated by the govt in this regard. “If anybody attempts to leave without the doctor’s clearance, then we will be forced to declare the Quarantine facility into a temporary jail and they will be kept here for three months under non-bailable sections”, Sarma said.
He also appealed the quarantined persons to not do “Facebook agitation” but cooperate with authorities by completing the required period of quarantine. “Those who did not have direct contact with these five persons will be examined by the doctors and only if they give the certificate, then they can be released before Ramzan begins”, Sarma said. He was referring to 5 persons from Uttar Pradesh who were found hiding in a mosque in Nalbari after returning from Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi, all of whom were tested positive for Coronavirus. “The government is spending money on them, providing excellent food, services of doctors and police and there may be minor irritants which the concerned authorities will take care of”, he added.
It may be mentioned that the Assam govt has increased the quarantine period from 14 days to 28 days for those who had come into direct contact with Coronavirus patients and Tablighi Jamaat members. This decision was taken after several persons developed COVID-19 symptoms several days after 14 days of coming into contact with known positive patients. But the Tablighi Jamaat members and their contacts kept in the Sarusajai Sports Complex are not happy with this decision, and are demanding that they should be allowed to go home.
Assam govt has also strongly refuted the allegations made by the Tablighi Jamaat members regarding the condition of the quarantine centre. The govt has assured that the food provided in the centre are regularly checked by officials and even the ministers, and they are found to be satisfactory. Minister of state in health minister Piyush Hazarika also informed that mosquito nets are provided do every inmate in the quarantine centres, and therefore there is no question of not being able to sleep due to mosquitoes.
The ministers are also tweeting the photographs of themselves inspecting the centres, and photographs of food distributed there, which show that good and healthy food is being served to people kept in quarantine.
The temporary Quarantine facility at the Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati was built in a record one week, even before a single positive case for Coronavirus was detected in the state. Assam has so far 35 Coronavirus positive cases, 19 of whom have recovered and one has died. Out of 35, as many as 34 are related to the Tablighi Jamaat event. 29 had attended the congregation in Delhi, while the rest 5 are close contacts of the Jamaat members.