Sikkim to charge non-resident returnees for Covid-19 tests
Non-Sikkimese people undergoing Covid-19 tests in the state will now have to shell out money, a top health official of the Himalayan state said on Saturday.
Till now, the Sikkim government was not charging any money either from Sikkimese or non-Sikkimese people. The decision was taken to reduce the burden on the state exchequer.
“Non-Sikkimese people returning to the state would have to pay Rs 3,500 for RT-PCR test and Rs 2000 for Truenat testing,” said a notice issued by Keshree Rai, principal director of health services of Sikkim on Friday.
Non-Sikkimese, are those who do not have Sikkim Certificates of Identity and Sikkim Subject Certificates. Sikkim was a separate kingdom till 1975 and some of its old rules are still preserved under article 371 (F) of the Constitution.
“Many non-Sikkimese, particularly those working in pharmaceutical companies and universities and hydro power companies, have already started returning to Sikkim,” Pempa Tshering Bhutia, director general cum secretary of state health and family welfare department said.
The decision was taken in a meeting held by the chief minister PS Tamang on June 30 at Gangtok. All Covid-19 tests in Sikkim are done at the state-run STNM Hospital. Till Saturday 11,242 swab samples were tested.
“As we were mandatorily carrying out Covid-19 tests free for all the returnees, it has put a burden on the state exchequer. From Saturday, the government has decided to charge from non-Sikkimese returnees,” said Bhutia.
It is also mandatory in Sikkim for all returnees to stay in quarantine for 28 days – either in a state-run facility, a private paid facility or at home.
Sikkim was the first state to close international borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan and two of the five border points with West Bengal. It had also banned the entry of tourists and migrant labourers. The state had zero Covid-19 cases till the time there was no movement of people. The state now has 103 cases.
The first Covid-19 case was reported on May 23 when a 25-year-old man had returned from Delhi.