Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (file image)

In a shocking statement, Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the people of the state need not wear masks as a protective measure against Covid-19 because the deadly viral disease is no more in the state.

At a time when the Centre issued fresh guidelines for strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, minister Sarma wondered why people should wear mask and “create panic” when Covid-19 has already left Assam.

His comment comes at a time when India is reeling under a second wave of Covid-19 and cases and deaths have started piling up again.

On Saturday, India reported close to 90,000 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day count in nearly six months.

Sarma made these irresponsible comments in an interview to The Lallantop.

When pointed out that his comments are in sharp contrast to the central government’s repeated appeals to the people to wear mask for safety, Sarma said, “The Centre can give instructions and guidelines but in the context of Assam, Covid-19 does not exist as of today. When Covid-19 returns, I will tell the people and ask them to wear mask.”

On being asked why he thinks there is no need to wear mask despite several states imposed strict Covid-19 restrictions, Sarma said, If there is no need to wear mask then what can I do?”

He further said that if people wear masks, how will beauty parlours run?

“Beauty parlours must also function. So, I have told people that this is an interim relief. The day I feel there is threat from Covid-19, people will be asked to wear mask again. Violation then will attract a fine of Rs 500,” said the minister.

Asked if as health minister of a state, has he consulted experts on these matters or is he speaking just as an administrator, he said there is no need to speak to experts on it.

“There is no need [to consult experts]. We have seen Covid-19 very closely for one year. This [relaxation of rules] is a relief. It can be an interim relief as well as a final relief. The day we record more than 100 daily cases, we will hold a press conference and ask people to start wearing masks,” he said.

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