Guwahati: Two COVID-19 patients have died and 535 new cases were reported in Assam on Saturday, taking the tally to 16,071, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
A 40-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man died, but Sarma said these could be added to the total only after the death audit board ascertained whether the “underlying cause of death is COVID-19”.
Addressing a press conference, the minister said all deaths where COVID-19 is the underlying cause will be certified by a death audit board according to the Indian Council Medical Research’s guidelines.
The two who died at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital were COVID-19 patients, with the woman having a history of pneumonia, type-2 diabetes and hypothyroidism, while the man had a history of kidney ailment who had been intubated and ventilated, Sarma said.
Out of the 37 deaths, 23 were reported this week with the single highest of eight deaths on Friday.
The minister said the case fatality rate in the state was 0.23 per cent against the national average of 2.69 per cent.
The number of coronavirus cases rose to 16,071 with 535 new infections, including 410 from Guwahati city, where the tally climbed to 6,631.
Meanwhile, the 14-day lockdown in Kamrup Metropolitan district, under which Guwahati city falls, was scheduled to end on Sunday at 6 pm but has been extended another week till July 19, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said.
The number of recovered increased to 10,426 with the discharge of 578 patients on Saturday. There are 5,607 active cases.
“The discharged number doubles that of active cases, and that’s a good news in a time like this”, Sarma tweeted.
“The state, with a recovery rate of 63.39 per cent is fourth in the country after Delhi, Gujarat and West Bengal,” he said.
Assam has so far tested 5,37,831 samples so far and the positivity rate is 2.96 per cent, with 15,754 per million population being tested, the minister said.
Meanwhile, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi, who was arrested by the NIA for his alleged role in violent protests in Assam last year against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, tested positive for the novel coronavirus inside the Guwahati Central Jail, an official said.
A total of 55 inmates, including Gogoi, have tested positive at the jail, forcing the authorities to issue orders for taking samples of all the 1,069 prisoners and seal the entire premises for an indefinite period.
NDFB leader Ranjan Daimary, jailed in connection with the 2008 serial blasts in Guwahati, was among the 55 inmates of Guwahati Central Jail to test COVID-19 positive.
BJP’s Sadiya MLA Bolin Chetia became the third legislator in the state to test COVID-19 positive and has been admitted to Tinsukia Civil Hospital, a health official said.
The Health Department will allow home quarantine to non-symptomatic COVID-19 patients only if they sign an undertaking agreeing to certain conditions, Sarma said.
The patient will be allowed home quarantine if they can ensure that their neighbours and the societies have no objection, there are no elders in the family, they have a private physician checking on them every three hours, have a pulse oximeter in the house and should be able to come in personal vehicle to the hospital, he said.
“The Health Department does not prefer home quarantine as there is a risk of transmitting the disease to others in the house, particularly the elderly and children, and we want to ensure that all COVID-19 patients will be available for timely treatment,” he said.
The social set-up in Assam is such that usually “three generations live together in a house and if the patient is not isolated, then there are chances that one person may infect 10 others,” he said.
“There is, however, constant requests from patients for home quarantine and though they have the freedom of choice but we cannot allow them to infect others. We can allow it only if they fulfil the above conditions,” Sarma added.
Flight passengers coming to Guwahati will now be subjected to COVID-19 antigen test at the airport and those testing negative will be allowed to go for home quarantine for 14 days, the minister said.
“It has also come to our notice that private hospitals are not admitting patients without the COVID test though we had asked them to set up testing facilities and, except for a few, most have not done so resulting in increase of morbidity and mortality rate,” he said.
Therefore, in the case of critical patients needing immediate hospitalisation, “we have decided that their results will be processed within 24 hours, provided the samples are received prior to 12 noon each day,” Sarma said.
The Health Department will also have a dedicated COVID care centre for pregnant women and children below the age of 12, and a geriatric Covid Centre for senior citizens.