Zero cases in Sikkim—thanks to fewer tests

COVID-19 National

Rapid testing kits for coronavirus testing are still to reach Sikkim. Shortage of kits has led to less number of reported cases in the state.

Nihan Parveen

April 17, 2020

Fewer numbers of COVID-19 tests have been conducted in Sikkim due to lack of Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL). The state with a population of 6.19 lakh, had conducted only 70 tests so far. 

S.D. Dhakal, secretary of the state’s Chief Minister said, “We are only screening people with flu. We do not have any VRDL in the state. Sikkim’s CM has asked the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to set up labs here. We are hopeful that the equipment will reach soon. We are also looking forward to the arrival of rapid testing kits that will reach us in a few days.”

“Currently, the samples collected are being sent to North Bengal Medical College in Siliguri, West Bengal. Once our lab is set and the kits have arrived, we will conduct intense testing of patients,” he added.

Dr.Pempa Tshering Bhutia, state health director-general said, “As of now, around 3,000 people are home quarantined and nine are in the state quarantine centrs. We are hopeful that with the arrival of rapid testing kits, we will be able to test more people.”

“However, in the tests carried out so far, luckily we haven’t found any positive cases. The number of tests that we will conduct shortly will decide the fate of the state,” he added.

Mountainous terrain, topography, and isolation of people are the few factors that have restricted the spread of COVID-19 in Sikkim. Around four lakh passengers arriving in the state have been screened for coronavirus so far, and no positive cases have been found.

The northeast region has 10 research centres—six in Assam, one in Meghalaya, one in Tripura and two in Manipur—including one at the Regional Medical Research Center at Lahowal in Dibrugarh, set up by the ICMR.

The Sikkim government hadbarred the entry of foreign nationals in the state beginning March 5, even though the tourism season had just begun. On March 17 a week before the national shutdown, Sikkim had already gone into self-quarantine.

Hari Prasad Chettri, Superintendent of Police, Gangtok said, “The state shares four borders with West Bengal and only two of them are open for movement of essential commodities. People coming through the borders are strictly screened. We have police patrolling the city and borders 24/7. Social distancing is highly maintained. We have also provided a 24/7 helpline number, to help people deal with all kinds of issues.”


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