Maha govt to blame for current Covid outbreak across the country: Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday held the Maharashtra government responsible for the current outbreak of Coronavirus across the country. He said the state government’s lax attitude led to escalation of cases at a massive rate.

In a statement, the minister said, “Throughout the last year, as the Health Minister of India, I have been a witness to the misgovernance and utter casual approach of the 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 further said that deplorable attempts made by some state governments to distract attention from their failures and spread panic among the people.

The Union Health Minister said, “In recent days, I have seen with growing dismay a number of irresponsible statements from some State government functionaries in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. As these statements have the potential to mislead the public and spread panic, it has become necessary to put the record straight.”

According to Harsh Vardhan, at a time when the country is witnessing a fresh wave of Covid infections, 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.

Referring to the demand to open up vaccination to everyone above the age of 18, or to drastically lower the minimum age criteria for vaccination eligibility, he said, “The Government of India has been frequently and transparently updating all the state governments about the demand-supply dynamics and the resultant vaccination strategy that has been adopted.”

He further stated that in fact, the vaccination strategy has been drawn up after extensive deliberations and consultations in partnership with all State governments.He pointed out that the primary aim of vaccination is to reduce mortality among the most vulnerable people, and enable the society to beat the pandemic.

The Union Health Minister said that as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritize, an established practice around the world, and is well known to all State governments.

“Maharashtra has vaccinated just 86 per cent of health workers with the first dose. The equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 72 per cent and 64 percent. On the other hand, 10 Indian states/UTs have done more than 90 per cent,” he said.

He further said: “Maharashtra has vaccinated just 41per percent of health care workers with a second dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 41 per cent and 27 per cent. There are 12 Indian states/UTs that have done more than 60 per cent.”

Harsh Vardhan further pointed out that among frontline workers, Maharashtra has vaccinated only 73 per cent with the first dose. Equivalent numbers for Delhi and Punjab are 71 per cent and 65 per cent. There are five Indian states/UTs that have already done more than 85 per cent.

“Vaccination of frontline workers with a second dose for Maharashtra is at A41per cent. For Delhi and Punjab, these numbers are 22 per cent and 20 per cent. There are six Indian states/UTs that have done more than 45 per cent,” he said.

Vardhan further said: “These states are trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts? Politicizing such a public health issue is a damning indictment of certain political leaders who should know better.”

Pointing towards comment from public representatives in Maharashtra about shortage of vaccines, the minister said, “This is nothing but an attempt to divert attention from Maharashtra government’s repeated failures to control the spread of pandemic. The inability of the Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension. To spread panic among the people is to compound the folly further.”

The Minister clarified that vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and State governments are being apprised regularly about it. Allegations of vaccine shortage are baseless.

“We, in the central government, have regularly counselled the Maharashtra state government, made them available all resources and sent central teams for help. However, the lack of effort on the part of the state government is now clearly visible and comes to haunt us all,” he said.

The Minister pointed out that today, Maharashtra not only has the highest cases and deaths in the country but also has one of the highest test positivity rates in the world! Their testing is not up to the mark and their contact tracing leaves a lot to be desired.

“The performance of Maharashtra government in terms of vaccinating health care workers and frontline workers is also not great. It is shocking to see how the state Government is putting Maharashtrians in danger by letting people escape institutional quarantine mandates for the sake of their personal Vasuli. Overall, as the state has lurched from one crisis to another, it seems as if the state leadership is happily sleeping at the wheels,” he said.

Offering Union government assistance, he said that the Maharashtra Government needs to do a lot more to control the pandemic and the Central Government will help them in all possible ways.

“But focusing all their energies on playing politics and spreading lies to create panic is not going to help the people of Maharashtra,” he said.

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