Guwahati: Weekend lockdown and its distant cousin, the night curfew were both lifted from Assam yesterday after an order was passed by the State Chief Secretary, Kumar Sanjay Krishna. Following this, activities have resumed on the streets of the state with the pre-eminence given to reviving the economy, in spite of the surging cases of the novel coronavirus.
As soon as the Chief Secretary made the announcement via a tweet, traders who have been incurring massive losses due to the imposition of the curbs must have heaved a collective sigh of relief. "Weekend lockdown and night curfew have been lifted, however, please adhere to all the COVID-19 protocols to keep yourself and others around you safe," the Chief Secretary's tweet said.
The lifting of these restrictions that have been in effect since the pandemic landed on Indian shores has come at a time when the state's COVID-19 tally is continuing to spike upwards at an unprecedented rate. The per-day average is around 3,000 cases, and the state's Health Minister has warned that if this continues for a month, there will be a heavy burden on the shoulders of the health machinery to treat the 90,000 odd cases at the end of this period. The minister has also said that complications post recovery from the virus is constantly raising the number of deaths in the state. The boom in cases has been reported alongside a sharp spike in the number of "critical" COVID-19 patients on oxygen support.
The reasons for opening up the state are purely economic. This was announced by the minister Himanta Biswa Sarma who said, "We have opened up due to economic reasons last month against the target of Rs 960 Crore our GST collection was Rs 590 Crore."
India's economy shrank by a record 23.9% last quarter—the biggest blow the coronavirus pandemic has dealt to a major economy so far—as the nationwide lockdown and cash crunch reduced spending by a considerable margin.
Taking a baby step towards abolishing the weekend lockdown last week, the Chief Secretary in an order stated that the officials and staff of State and Central government departments including PSUs and Autonomous bodies will now be allowed to attend their official duties on all working Saturdays from 5 am to 9 pm.
Today, lockdown restrictions have been completely lifted from the state, in a bid to revive the economy. The resumption of activities, to a large extent, will see the responsibility to contain the virus fall on the public, as scientists have concluded that masks and social distancing can thwart the virus to a large extent.
At the same time, the administration has already begun imposing severe penalties on violations. Even the Gauhati High Court has stepped in, urging the administration to take strict action against violators due to the rising number of cases. For now, the denizens of the state can once again enjoy the sights and sights of a buzzing Assam on the weekends as well -- by adhering to protocol measures, of course.