While the rest of the country is struggling to fight against the pandemic, Sikkim is the only COVID-19 free state until yet. People might attribute this to its small size and population but, there are more factors than meet the eye.
The state has commendably managed the situation quite well despite being a state known for its tourist activities and flooded with tourists out on a Sikkim trip. Who might be the possible COVID-19 Carriers.
Now in order to protect the state from any unforeseeable damage, Sikkim Government has decided to close off its borders to tourists till October this year. Shocked! to hear that, yes we were too.
The news is somewhat disturbing for those who had a ‘Sikkim Trip’ on their bucket list this year. Sorry but you have to wait for a little while before you can check that off your list.
There were many factors that led the state into becoming completely COVID-19 free. Primarily, it shares borders with only one other state, West Bengal.
Which is why traveling to the Sikkim is difficult as it has no railway station and its first airport was inaugurated only in 2018.
Along with these ‘natural defenses’, the state was also the first to enforce the lockdown on 17th March. In addition, Sikkim has installed 10 quarantine centers.
There has not been a single positive case in the state so far, and it seems they intend to keep it that way through the decision of the ban on tourists.
S.D. Dhakal, principal secretary to Chief Minister Tamang, says “We have been successful in warding off coronavirus because the chief minister was prompt and proactive”.
Around 8 lakh tourists visited the ‘Traveller’s Paradise’ in 2016. Since then, the numbers have almost doubled as 1.2-1.4 million tourists arrive every year to witness the beauty of the monasteries and mountains while on a Sikkim Trip.
February and March are the peak months for tourism in the state. As a result, the state’s ban on tourism will gravely impact the economy of the state.
Through direct and indirect activities both, the state was said to receive Rs 1,000 crore as revenue.
“We did not think of the economic losses. Protecting Sikkim was the top priority of the chief minister. If people survive, we can think of tourism again,” says Dhakal.
This statement can be proven by the fact that the CM had asked all foreign tourists to leave the state by March 17th itself. This is much before the Centre had imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24th.
Students from Sikkim who were studying in China were back to the states even earlier than they’ve imposed the lockdown, in the month of January.
Before being allowed to go back to their homes, however, they were first quarantined and tested. Only once they tested negative were they allowed to go back.
This was the last time they allowed anyone in. They closed their borders and got the green light for a state-wide lockdown on March 17th.
For students from Sikkim who are studying in other such cities like Delhi and Kolkata, the government has asked them to stay in their respective cities. In order to ease their situation, the state transferred a one-time allowance of Rs 5,000 to 1,500 to any such students.
To make sure social distancing works, the ration for citizens is being home-delivered by the state’s municipalities. The monthly ration being provided consists of rice, potatoes, and other such basics to avoid a food crisis.
The state’s efforts are commendable during this time. We should learn from Sikkim on how to manage as a union in times of crisis. And well! also, hold off our plans for Sikkim Trip as a gesture of respect towards all the efforts taken by the state.