With eight more deaths reported on Wednesday, Swine flu has claimed 239 lives since January 1 in Gujarat, making it the state with the highest number of H1N1 deaths in the country, with Rajasthan at second highest at 238 deaths in the same period. Also, 242 new cases were reported in the state in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 3,769 since January 1, the month in which Gujarat witnessed various national and international events, including Vibrant Summit, Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas and Rann Utsav that saw a huge inflow of foreign and domestic travellers to the state.
The latest victims to die were from Ahmedabad, Kutch, Patan, Gandhinagar, Sabarkantha, Morbi, Tapi and Botad. Among those tested positive, of the 242, Ahmedabad remained at the top at 97, Surat had 27 cases, Vadodara 20, Patan 20, Sabarkantha 11, Kutch 9, Gandhinagar 8, Rajkot and Jamnagar 7 each, Amreli 6 and Surendranagar 5 cases of Swine flu.
Gujarat’s junior health minister Shankar Chaudhary and assembly speaker Ganpat Vasava are among the high-profile victims of the virus. They have been quarantined and remained absent from the ongoing Budget session of the assembly. Even as the Gujarat government claimed the situation was under control, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad and Rajkot district collectors have issued orders banning large unauthorised assemblies under section 144 of the CrPC to top the spread of the virus.
Even as certain private schools and two universities (in Surat and Ahmedabad) have announced “swine flu vacations”, and events like a charity walk and a religious assembly in Ahmedabad were cancelled, Vadodara saw a cricket tournament on full swing where officials of the eight municipal corporations of Gujarat, including their health officials, played each other at the Motibaug stadium. On Wednesday, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s (AMC) , one of the worst hit by H1N1, Commissioner’s XI took on their Rajkot counterparts in the day encounter while AMC Mayor’s XI played Rajkot Mayor’s XI in the night encounter that began at 8 pm. The AMC Commissioner’s team included three officers from the health department – Mahendra Waghela,Prakash Valundra and Jagdish Waghela. VMC officials said that the cricket tournament “had been planned well in advance with sanction from the state government”.
The Mayor’s and Commissioner’s teams of eight municipal corporations – Vadodara, Surat, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Gandhinagar – played the quarterfinals that concluded on Wednesday.
State health minister Nitin Patel told The Indian Express, “The situation is not out of control. The number of deaths per day have settled at an average of 10 and the cases at 150.” He added, “Ahmedabad collector has imposed section 144, but the government has not been considering any such thing.”
Commissioner Health J P Gupta said, “If the reasons for its spread or how to curtail it were identified, it would have been no problem at all. We are trying our best to avoid the spread of this deadly air-borne virus by involving maximum public participation through mass awareness and maintaining hygiene conditions through Information Education and Communication (IEC) programme. This is the best we can do.” The Gujarat government’s health department has set up kiosks to distribute an ayurvedic concoction called “kaadha” freely, as a part of its measure to control Swine flu.
Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel, who was in Gujarat over the last weekend, took up the matter in the Parliament and raised the question, “If there was no cause for worry, why did the Ahmedabad District Collector impose Section 144 yesterday?
Gujarat organised large-scale public gatherings this year like Vibrant Gujarat, Kite festival and Marathon. Didn’t the Union Government deem it fit to have issued warnings to state governments in the beginning of the year to take extra precautions in such public gatherings?”, said his statement. He also charged the state government of “downplaying the situation all along though its own minster tested positive for Swine flu”.
The Congress legislators wore masks as a mark of protest against the government “downplaying” the situation on Monday, the first day of the Budget session.