- February onwards, Sikkim started screening for COVID-19 at check posts
- On March 5, Sikkim banned the entry of international tourists
- Amid COVID-19 scare, on March 17, Sikkim banned entry of domestic tourists
New Delhi: At a time when the world is battling coronavirus pandemic and the disease COVID-19 which has infected over 21,000 (21,393) people across India and taken 681 lives, Sikkim is the only state in the country that has not reported even a single positive case of COVID-19. But how Sikkim a state with a population of 6.19 lakh (Census 2011) and one of the tourist destinations has managed to protect itself from the highly contagious disease? And how does the state plan to hold onto this achievement? In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Prem Singh Tamang, Chief Minister of the Sikkim, shares the state’s success story.
Sikkim was one of the first states to start screening and BAN the entry of all foreigners in the state. Back then, it looked like a strict reaction to the pandemic but now it seems to be one of the reasons behind Sikkim being coronavirus free.
Giving credit to the state’s early preparedness and the citizens, the Chief Minister said,
Sikkim has been coronavirus free because we took precautions ever since the first case was reported. February onwards, we started screening at various check posts. On March 5, we banned the entry of international tourists and on March 17, domestic tourists were banned. Apart from this, frontline warriors – healthcare professionals, police officials, sanitation workers, government employees – have been proactive. I would like to congratulate them and thank the citizens for their discipline. It’s because of them we haven’t reported even a single case.
Though the state was quick in initiating screening and taking preventive measures, but the challenge is, Sikkim doesn’t have any testing lab. Talking about how Sikkim is testing for COVID-19 in the absence of a lab, CM Tamang said,
We don’t have a lab but we wrote to the government of India and immediately got approval for North Bengal Medical College to conduct COVID-19 tests. We have sent over 60 samples and they all turned to be negative. Parallely, our own testing lab is being built and within a month it’ll be ready.
Since the nearest lab is North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Bengal’s Siliguri, about 140 km away, Sikkim plans to continue strict screening and rely more on rapid testing. As the CM said, the state is prepared to face all the challenges.
CM Tamang also appreciated the efforts of pharmaceutical firms producing medicines and fulfilling the bulk requirement of the country. Talking about the same, CM Tamang said,
Our firms are producing medicines in full swing. 60 per cent of the medicines are supplied from here and even during the lockdown the production happened; social distancing was maintained.