Updated: March 18, 2021 9:12:35 am
Amid Covid surge in Punjab when the daily case count crossed 2,000-mark on Wednesday, the Moga administration has granted permission to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to hold Maha Kisan Sammelan (Mega Farmers’ Rally) on Sunday at the Grain Market of Baghapurana which is expected to be addressed by party’s national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
However, the administration, in the letter issued to the party (copy with The Indian Express) has specified certain conditions which the party has to follow in view of Covid.
The letter signed by the Moga Additional Deputy Commissioner says that keeping in view rising Covid cases in Punjab, the organisers have to ensure: (1) All the leaders and workers who will participate in the rally have to wear masks and follow social distancing; (2) The venue will be sanitised using sodium hypochlorite; (3) Sanitizers will be made available at the entry point and near the stage at the venue; (4) All the guidelines issued by Central government and Punjab government for Covid management will be followed.
In a special advisory, the administration has also told AAP organisers to ensure that only those VVIPs and VIPs should be allowed to
attend the rally and sit on stage who test negative in the past 48 hours.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Moga Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Hans said that the permission to hold the rally has been given to the AAP with certain conditions which they have to follow as a precaution for Covid.
Asserting that he was “not justifying a wrong with a wrong”, Hans said, “Otherwise also, gatherings and events such as farmers’ agitation and local body polls were held in Punjab despite Covid being at its peak. I am not justifying a wrong with a wrong but we have granted permission for the rally only after mentioning all the precautions and conditions in written, which the organisers have to follow. If the orders are violated, we will see then what appropriate action has to be taken.”
The AAP claims that they will not only be providing masks and sanitizers at the rally venue, but also there will be arrangements for ‘Rapid antigen testing’, at least for the politicians who will sit on the dais.
“We will be distributing free masks and sanitizers at the rally venue. Also, the rapid antigen testing kits are being arranged if there will be need for any urgent testing,” said Harmanjit Singh, AAP district president. Asked about the number of people who are expected to attend the rally and how many testing kits were being arranged, he said, “We are still working on the logistics but there will be ample kits.”
M S Sidhu, party’s state media advisor, said, “At least for the leaders who will be sitting on the dais, there will be an arrangement for rapid antigen testing. Those who will not get themselves tested and come with ‘negative’ report will be tested on the spot. Several teams have been formed to ensure all arrangements are in place and a special team is also working on Covid management. There will be at least 50,000 masks and sanitizers on the spot for distribution. We will try to arrange as many Covid rapid antigen testing kits as possible.”
However, a senior health official from Punjab said that neither rapid antigen testing is a foolproof method to detect positive cases nor testing kits are easily available in the open market.
“Even if a person tests positive on rapid testing, there has to be a confirmatory RT-PCR test. Rapid testing gives result within 30 minutes and only one person can be tested with one kit. Earlier the price for each kit was around Rs 350 which has now come down to Rs 100 or so but kits aren’t available for sale in open market and are supplied to ICMR-approved labs only. Also, these kits have 60-70% sensitivity rate which means that not all positive persons can be detected via rapid testing,” said the senior health official from Punjab.
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