COVID-19 precautionary norms went for a toss in Jorhat on Sunday as people in large numbers- mostly shopkeepers and their employees- thronged in at the two rapid antigen testing centres of the town.

The Jorhat district administration has fixed August 13 deadline for the shopkeepers and their employees to get their COVID-19 test report.

As per the new order passed by the Jorhat district administration on August 7, all shops could be opened in Jorhat from Monday ( August 10) provided the ship-owners and their employees produced a  COVID-19 negative certificate from August 13 onwards, failing which they would face charges and fines.

The president of Upper Assam Chamber of Commerce Duli Chand Agarwal called up the Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly and Jorhat MLA Hitendra Nath Goswami seeking his intervention for revision of the order by the district administration so that there is no deadline and the opening of shops and testing is carried out in a simultaneous manner.

He further suggested that mobile rapid antigen testing vans go from shop to shop in different areas on any given day and test the owners and employees or do it ward by ward.

Expressing alarm at the jostling queues, former Jorhat MLA and AICC secretary Rana Goswami said that this will only spread the virus and not contain it as envisioned.

While questioning whether there were sufficient numbers of technicians at the Centres to cater to such large numbers, Goswami further said that he would like to request the district administration to open up more RAT centres to ease the pressure on these two centres and the hassled technicians who had to work under such a situation.

“In such testing times when shopkeepers are facing heavy losses, the district administration should not harass them more by setting such short deadlines, ” he said.

Police had to intervene time and again to manage the restless crowds pushing and shoving each other and breaking the serpentine queues without social distancing in front of the Govt Girls HS and MP school and Marwari Thakurbari, the two designated COVID-19 Rapid antigen testing centres.

On Saturday about 200  people had to return home untested after waiting for hours in the sun after the clock had struck four and allegedly the kits had also got exhausted in one of the centres.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com