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Opinion | Keep Covid pandemic away from politics, let’s fight the challenge unitedly

The number of fresh Covid-19 cases reached an all-time high on Friday, as India recorded 1,45,384 cases, the highest single-day surge till date, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. 

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Published on: April 10, 2021 16:04 IST
Opinion | Keep Covid pandemic away from politics, let’s fight the challenge unitedly
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Keep Covid pandemic away from politics, let’s fight the challenge unitedly

The number of fresh Covid-19 cases reached an all-time high on Friday, as India recorded 1,45,384 cases, the highest single-day surge till date, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. The number of fresh Covid-19 cases reached an all-time high on Friday, as India recorded 1,45,384 cases, the highest single-day surge till date, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. 

India’s financial capital, Mumbai wore a deserted look from Friday evening reviving memories of March 2020 when a nationwide lockdown was imposed. Maharashtra continues to reel under the attack of Covid pandemic, with 58,993 fresh cases reported on Friday. Nearly 20,000 Covid cases have been reported in the last several weeks till now from Dharavi, Dadar and Mahim localities in Mumbai.

The surge in pandemic continues in the national capital Delhi, where 8,521 fresh cases and 39 deaths were reported. Among other states, Kerala reported 5,063 new cases, Karnataka 7,955, Rajasthan 3,970, Mumbai 9,200, Tamil Nadu 5,441, Gujarat 4,541, Bihar 2,174, Punjab 3,459, Haryana 2,994, and Madhya Pradesh 4,882 new cases on Friday.

Rajasthan government has imposed night curfew in nine cities, Ajmer, Alwar, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Dungarpur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota and Abu Road from 8 pm to 6 am till April 30. Two top public schools in Lucknow were sealed on charge of violating Covid-19 protocol. 53 health workers including two doctors, 38 medical students and 13 healthcare workers were found Covid positive in Bhopal AIIMS hospital.

The overall scene is alarming. More than 100 doctors in three top hospitals of India, AIIMS Delhi, Sir Gangaram Hospital and KGMU hospital, Lucknow have been tested positive. There is severe shortage of ventilators, ICU beds and oxygen in several hospitals of Mumbai and Nagpur. In Madhya Pradesh, hundreds of people stood in queues to purchase Remdesivir vials, which is vital for helping Covid patients suffering from lung infections. The medicine has simply vanished from the shelves of chemist shops.

Twenty-six health workers, including 20 doctors and two faculty members of AIIMS Delhi were found Covid positive. 17 doctors in BHU hospital, Varanasi have also been infected by the virus. Nearly 40 doctors in KGMU hospital, Lucknow are presently in isolation as they have been tested positive. Thirty-seven doctors in Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital have also been tested positive.

With so many doctors and health workers falling ill, the health care system is bound to be adversely affected. The only saving grace is that many of these doctors have mild Covid symptoms, are in isolation and undergoing treatment. They are being protected because of the Covid vaccines that they have taken.

Hospital beds in Nagpur are full, and Covid patients are going to Amravati for treatment. Ambulance drivers are fleecing patients by charging  Rs 10-12,000 per trip for transporting them from Nagpur to Amravati. Almost all the beds in Pune, Mumbai, Nashik hospitals are presently occupied. In some hospitals, Covid patients are lying on the floor. Hospitals are in dire need of oxygen and ventilators.

There are more than 90,000 active Covid cases in Mumbai alone, with 8-10,000 new patients arriving daily. There are reports that many of the asymptomatic patients tested positive are being treated in hospitals, which they do not need at all. These patients can recover within two weeks by staying at home and by undergoing treatment under advice from doctors over phone. This can help critical patients who are in dire need of ICU beds.

In neighbouring Gujarat, we showed in my prime time programme ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, 42 ambulances carrying Covid patients were lined up outside the Rajkot hospital, waiting for admission. In Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Yogi Adityanath is personally overseeing the situation in Covid centres created in Prayagraj, Varanasi and Lucknow.

Profiteers are fleecing people by hoarding and selling Remdesivir injections at exorbitant prices. A vial that normally costs up to Rs 5,000 is being sold for Rs 1.5 lakhs. There are more than 28,000 active Covid patients in Bhopal, where relatives of patients are running from pillar to post to buy Remdesivir injections. The situation is similar in Indore too. On Friday, Mumbai police arrested two blackmarketers from Jogeshwari locality with 284 Remdesivir vials worth Rs 14 lakhs.

Crematoriums in Ahmednagar and Aurangabad of Maharashtra are facing a tough time for conducting funerals of scores of bodies of Covid patients. Cemeteries have run out of space. At a crematorium in Beed, Maharashtra, eight bodies were cremated on a single pyre.

The crisis has been compounded because of shortage of Covid vaccines in Maharashtra. The major vaccination centre at BKC in Mumbai, and top private hospitals like Nanavati, Breach Candy and Lilawati, have stopped administering doses because of non-availability of vaccines. At the largest vaccination centre GMC Hospital in Nagpur, Covid vaccination has been suspended due to lack of vaccines.

It is a fact that there is shortage of Covid vaccines in some districts and people have to return empty handed. There is, however, no shortage of vaccines in India as is being alleged from some quarters. All states and union territories are getting their quotas of vaccines, as per guidelines reached through consensus with all states. It may be that, in some cases, stocks of vaccines could not reach the vaccination centre in time, leading to shortage. This is an issue that relates to life and death of people, and should, therefore, be kept away from politics. There has been no ‘step-motherly treatment’ towards any state in the matter of distribution of vaccine stocks.

The Maharashtra health minister had complained that his state got the same quantity of vaccines that neighbouring Gujarat got, though his state’s population was more than Gujarat’s. But Uttar Pradesh, which has the largest population, got the same number of vaccines that Maharashtra got. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is now demanding supply of more vaccines. I remember when the vaccination drive was launched, many Congress leaders had questioned the efficacy of the vaccines. They had even challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the vaccine first. Two chief ministers of Congress-ruled states had then refused to take delivery of vaccines.

I want to say: Let bygones be bygones. There must be no more politics on the issue of vaccines. Similarly, Maharashtra government should not be blamed for the surge caused by the second wave of pandemic. The number of Covid patients have increased, there is huge pressure and load on the health system, but the state government must not be blamed. On the same level, the Centre must not be blamed for any disruptions that may have occurred in the delivery of vaccine stocks.

This is the time for all to join hands, understand the problems and sufferings of common people, provide them succour, increase testing and tracing, and create awareness among people about the need to take vaccines. And, of course, follow Covid protocols like wearing masks, social distancing and frequent washing of hands.

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