Gangtok, 12 Apr: All shops, except those selling essential items, will remain closed on Saturdays

and Sundays, fresh guidelines issued by the State Government today order. Alongside the weekend "lockdown," which, well, can come into effect only on weekends, the government has also put a

ceiling on social and religious gatherings which too will come into effect only from the weekend onwards.

The new guidelines issued today by the Chief Secretary also direct that from 17 April [Saturday] onwards, all social, political and religious gatherings can have only 50 persons present at any given point of time. Even in such cases, prior permission of the concerned District Collectors should needs to be obtained. If the exuberant police bandobast to ensure "Covid appropriate" behaviour is any indication, expect the new guidelines to be enthusiastically enforced. The guidelines specify that all gatherings will require to maintain Covid appropriate protocols like mask-wearing, social-distancing, hand-washing etc. Meanwhile cops across Sikkim are already taking enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing at shops and public spaces very seriously even if policing of gatherings will happen only from the 17th.

These regulations for gatherings will obviously continue after the weekend as well. As for the orders on keeping shops closed on weekends, since the order states that these provisions will remain in effect till 30 April, for two weekends, the rural folk who come to sell their produce at the vegetable markets on

weekends will lose two weekends of the shopping they also take home from the bazaars. As per the order, except for medical shops, ration shops and vegetable vendors in bazaar areas, all other shops will remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays. This directive will remain in effect till 30 April and the

normal weekly off-days for shops, like Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays depending on where the shops are located, will also be suspended. For tourists who have negative RTPCR test reports but

whose 72 hour limit has expired, Rapid Antigen Testing [RAT] facilities will be set up at Rangpo and Melli by the Health Department. A separate SOP will be issued by the Health Department regarding procedure, location and effective date for operation of these facilities