A day after Haryana Home and Health Minister Anil Vij said he fears the consequences of the relaxations enforced in the third phase of the lockdown, he told The Indian Express that “opening all markets at once can be fatal”. Speaking to The Indian Express, he emphasized that “despite the pulls and pressures from high and mighty”, he stands firm on keeping the borders with national capital Delhi “shut”.
Vij also spoke on how prepared his state is to tackle the increasing number of coronavirus cases and unlike other states where the Council of Ministers takes decisions and assesses the Covid situation, “no such practice exists in Haryana” and the “CM was taking all the decisions”.
How well Haryana is prepared to deal with the surge, likely to increase in coming days?
The government is fully prepared to tackle the coronavirus. Initially, we had some cases because all the markets were closed and things needed for the security of medical staff were not being easily available like PPE kits and N95 masks, medicines, and other healthcare equipment. But with the efficient role of our officers, we were able to acquire all necessary infrastructure in sufficient quantities. Currently, we have 9,444 isolation beds, 1,39,797 PPE kits, 1,101 ventilators and 3,09,039 N95 masks. We have 11 Covid hospitals and all our patients are treated in these hospitals only. In these hospitals, we have 4281 isolation beds and 292 ventilators. For quarantine facilities, we have 5,839 such places with a total capacity of 19,210 beds. All districts of Haryana have sufficient quantities of PPE kits and N95 masks. Our warehouses also have enough stock.
Why has the recovery rate of Haryana fallen sharply in three days?
Our recovery rate had reached 72.72 per cent, second in the country after Kerala. However, cases have increased in the districts adjoining the national capital. Earlier, we had rounded up 1700 Tablighis and due to their early screening, 120 tested positive. We gave them adequate and prompt treatment and they recovered. Our active patients count had dipped to 81. We were hoping that in another 15 days, we shall be Covid-free. But suddenly, the cases started increasing, especially in adjoining districts of Delhi.
What prompted the shutting down of borders with Delhi?
There are more than 100 hotspots in Delhi. People who live in the vicinity frequently travel to Delhi. That was the reason why Haryana witnessed a sudden increase in cases. I had to seal the borders. I need to first save my state. If we survive, only then can we help others.
I have to face a lot of opposition due to this decision. Majority people who commute between Gurugram-Delhi, Faridabad-Delhi, Sonipat-Delhi and Jhajjar-Delhi are high-ups. They have more contacts. Thus, I started getting pressure from various quarters. Till date, I am getting pressured by politicians, bureaucracy etc. But I did not pay any heed and ordered that the borders shall remain sealed. We will not allow anybody to enter Haryana unless he/she tests negative for coronavirus. Teams of doctors are deployed on these borders. They are using Rapid Testing Kits. The results come in 5-7 minutes.
Do you think it will bring down the number of cases in Haryana?
The results of the sealing of borders shall come in a few days. The results cannot be achieved immediately. But the cases that are increasing now pertain to those who had been to Delhi earlier because the incubation period of this virus is 4-14 days. Now we have closed all the main roads and inner-link roads as well to completely block the traffic between these four districts and Delhi. Thus, we can expect results of this decision after two weeks.
You say the state is adequately prepared, yet doctors and health workers are getting infected.
Doctors can get infected because they are on the frontline while dealing with patients. They have been provided with PPE kits and every other safeguard. Yet, there can be certain cases. Our health workers are working with full dedication. In fact, what happened initially was that many hospitals procured these kits on their own. Also, a large number of people donated these kits. But those kits were not upto the required standards and specifications. Thus, I have ordered to junk all those kits received in donations unless they match the specifications ordered by the Government of India. We have enough stocks of PPE kits to take care of our doctors and medical staff.
Delhi has started plasma therapy for coronavirus patients. Punjab has also recently got approval. Has Haryana also sought any such approval?
Plasma therapy is meant for patients who are critical. But in Haryana, as on date, none of our patients is even on oxygen support. Not a single patient is on ventilator support. We are treating them with traditional medicines. We have cured them and they have gone back home. If need be, we shall also consider using plasma therapy. But, as of now there is no such need in Haryana.
You mentioned Rapid Testing Kits being used on borders with Delhi. From where did you source these kits, because the Government of India had banned the use of these kits?
Initially, the RTKs that the Centre had procured were being used. We have got 10,000 of those kits. But when GoI instructed not to use those kits, we stopped. But there is a South Korean company that is manufacturing these kits in Haryana. We called the tenders and that company also participated in the tenders. Their kits are cheaper than Chinese kits. We procured this South Korean company’s kits. Even GoI gave us a go ahead. We are using these kits as and where required.
These RTKs are indicative tests, not absolute tests. For instance, if antibodies have been formed in a person’s body, these kits can indicate that. Thus, we decided to use these RTKs to test our frontline staff including police, local bodies personnel, health workers. I have given directions to first test all those personnel using these RTKs. Also people from other walks of life who come in contact with large numbers of people – for instance, vegetable/fruit vendors, milk sellers, ration vendors, newspaper hawkers – shall also be tested using these RTKs. We have also utilised services of 20,000 Asha workers who conducted door-to-door survey in large number of areas. So far, we have found 11,000 such people who complained of respiratory problems. I have ordered health department to conduct tests of all these 11,000 persons using RTKs. If there are indications, we shall conduct RTPCR tests on such people.
Shouldn’t there be more testing?
I agree, there should be more testing. In Haryana, our tests per million population is 1,504 against the national average of 500. We are still increasing our testing. But, there is a limit too. We cannot test all 1.3 billion population of the country. Even if we do that, it shall take us years to complete that exercise. Thus, we have to form certain categories of people. For instance, I am writing to all the sarpanches of all villages of Haryana to conduct checks in their respective villages and identify persons who have symptoms of coronavirus or any illness.
States have started movement of migrant labourers. Haryana too is starting special trains. But if the migrant labourers move out of state, how will industry function?
Adhering to the MHA’s guidelines regarding launching of a portal for registration of migrant labourers, we did that and on the first day more than 45,000 migrant labourers registered themselves. Yet, many more want to go back to their native places. A major crisis is going to arise. We are giving relaxations to industries asking them to open. But there will be not enough labour. The youth here in Haryana and Punjab are not used to such hard labour that is required. Thus, construction work will also get affected tremendously. And it can not be said when these people will return. For manufacturing industries, when there will be no buyer, how and what will they manufacture? It will take almost a year to get things back to normal, even if the coronavirus crisis ends.
What are your views on opening of markets as part of relaxations?
These massive relaxations should not have been given all at once. It should have been a step-wise procedure. Opening all the markets at once can be fatal.
Several states have their war rooms, Cabinets (council of ministers) are assessing the situation regularly. Is any such thing happening in Haryana?
There is no such practice in Haryana.
Who is taking all the decisions?
The chief minister is taking all the decisions.
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