Minister for Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs James PK Sangma held a meeting with officials of West Garo Hills district administration, including Health, Supply and Information & Public Relations at Tura Circuit House on Tuesday to review the level of preparedness in the face of possible outbreak of COVID-19 in the Garo Hills districts.
Sangma, who is the Nodal Minister in-charge of Garo Hills region monitoring the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, said he wanted to see how prepared the concerned departments were to deal with the challenging situation in respect of health, maintenance of law & order and supply of essential commodities and asked the officials present the situation report as well as their requirements.
The Minister also asked the officers to be prepared to cope up with situation in the aftermath of 21-day lockdown.
West Garo Hills deputy commissioner, Ram Singh who apprised the minister on all the necessary steps being taken in the district, informed that the process was on for setting up of a testing centre as well as isolation centres. Regarding supply of vegetables to the consumers, he informed that supply of vegetables from outside the state has been stopped since the detection of COVID-19 cases in the neighbouring state of Assam and that the district has been promoting sale and consumption of locally available vegetables instead.
Apprising the Health department’s preparedness, DMHO, Tura Dr. MR Sangma informed the Minister that Pastoral Centre has been identified as isolation centre with 136 beds ready, while 58 beds were ready for Quarantine Centre at SMELC Building, Dakopgre.
Isolation wards also have been made ready at the Tura Civil Hospital which is the dedicated COVID-19 Hospital for Garo Hills with 8 beds, Tura Christian Hospital with 4 beds, Holy Cross Hospital with 5 beds, Chibinang PHC with 30 beds and in five PHCs in the district with 2 beds each.
He also informed the Minister about the shortage of N95 masks and non-availability of ambulance except for one 108 ambulance and said that one dedicated ambulance for transportation of COVID-19 patients and one vehicle for sample collection would be required for the district. Supply of ventilators was also discussed during the meeting.
As far as supply of essential commodities is concerned, the Minister was informed that although the district have sufficient stock of commodities like rice, dal, etc, it was also having to cater to South Garo Hills district, particularly Chokpot, which is entirely dependent on West Garo Hills for supply of such essential items.
It was also informed that permission was being issued for procurement of food grains under OMSS from cities like Guwahati as well as Delhi and that respective districts have to identify lifting officers for the same. Supply and distribution of LPG was also one of the main concerns, the minister was told.
Some of the decisions taken by the district administration as informed to the Minister were that weekly markets would be allowed to operate but traders from outside would not be allowed and that farmers would be allowed to resume their day-to-day activities during the period of lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Minister also expressed his concern over the inability of areca nut growers to sell their produce and asked the district administration to work out a system to allow lifting of areca nut by traders without putting the people at risk. He also asked the District Administration to look into providing of PPEs to the police on duty at checkpoints/screening points, etc.
The Minister also cautioned the administration about the possible surge of students waiting to return home once the lockdown period is over.
Director of Educational Research & Training, AM Sangma, who is deputed to oversee the supply of essential commodities in Garo Hills, Commissioner of Disabilities, SB Marak and Superintendent of Police, Tura, Dr MG Raghavendra Kumar were among others who were present and participated in the discussions.