“Deplorable attempts by some states to distract attention from their failures and spread panic”
GN Bureau | April 7, 2021
India recorded a new high of 1,15,736 daily Covid-19 cases with Maharashtra bearing nearly half of the load, as the state and the centre traded charges for the first time since the outbreak. State leaders sought to put part of the blame on the centre while union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan slammed them for “irresponsible statements”.
On a day India surpassed the US as the fastest vaccinating nation, eight states continued to show upward trajectory of fresh infections too. The country’s active case load reached 8,43,473, while there were 630 Covid-related deaths in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning. Maharashtra registered 55,469, far higher than Karnataka (6,150) and Uttar Pradesh (5,895).
With the daily figure hitting above the 1,00,000 mark for the third of the last four days, political slugfest finally came out in the open. Dr Harsh Vardhan issued a statement saying he was “alarmed to note the fact that many State governments have failed to take appropriate response measures and apply the lessons that the nation has learned over the past one year of handling this pandemic”.
As for the demand from Maharashtra, Delhi and Rajasthan to open up vaccination to all adults, he clarified that the aim was to reduce mortality among the most vulnerable people, and as long as the supply of vaccines remained limited, there was no option but to prioritise, which is also the established practice around the world.
“When states ask to open up vaccine supplies to everyone over 18, we must presume that they have done saturation coverage of healthcare workers, frontline workers and senior citizens. But the facts are altogether different. Maharashtra has vaccinated just only 86% of health workers with first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72% and 64%. On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90%. Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41% of healthcare workers with second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41% and 27%. There are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60%.”
He then accused the states of “trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts” and concluded: “Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better.”
As Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday announced halting the vaccination drive in some districts citing shortage of vaccines, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted that, “This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic. The inability of Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension.”
He went on to add, “Throughout the last year, as the Health Minister of India, I have been a witness to the misgovernance and utter casual approach of Maharashtra Government in battling the virus. The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus.” He slammed the state for not having their testing and contact tracing up to the mark.
He also targeted Chhattisgarh for spreading “misinformation and panic on vaccination” and indulging in “petty politicking”. He, however, also added that the quality of testing needs to improve in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
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