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Monday, June 21, 2021

#AskKTR: Telangana minister does a Twitter Q&A to address Covid concerns

KTR, as KT Rama Rao is popularly known, is also the head of a newly constituted State Task Force to expedite supply of Covid-related medicine and vaccines.

By: Express Web Desk | Hyderabad |
May 14, 2021 11:05:01 am
A road leading to Charminar is closed during the lockdown in Hyderabad. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Telangana’s Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries, and Information Technology, KT Rama Rao, took to Twitter Thursday evening for an #AskKTR session to gauge the public mood and address concerns over the 10-day lockdown imposed in the state to curb the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

KTR, as he is popularly known, is also the head of a newly constituted State Task Force to expedite supply of Covid-related medicine and vaccines. “Aren’t we being complacent by testing less and thinking that the curve is getting plateaued? #AskKTR @KTRTRS,” asked a user. The reply was instant. “Not at all, my comment is based on data and also the admissions into hospitals & home isolated cases.” KTR also shared a chart on the latest Covid situation to suggest Telangana’s better performance in comparison to other states in the country.

When a citizen pointed out that Telangana has been testing only 70,000 samples in the last few days as compared to 1.2 lakh tests before, and asked why the state could not conduct 1.5 lakh daily tests for 10 to 14 days before analysing the situation and arriving at claims, the minister was quick to respond saying, “Even ICMR guidelines state clearly that as soon as anyone has symptoms, whether or not testing proves conclusively, they can get started on vitamin supplements & basic medication being provided by Govt healthcare workers.”

KTR said the state has formed over 28,000 teams, completed a fever survey of 60 lakh households, and delivered over 2.3 lakh medical kits during the survey. “Survey is ongoing & you will start seeing results of this gigantic effort soon,” he said.

On April 23, the 44-year-old had tweeted urging those who were in contact with him to isolate themselves and get tested for Covid after he contracted the disease. As the session began, many wanted the minister to share his own experience of recovery. “I had seven consecutive days of low to high grade fever followed by an infection of lungs. As I am a diabetic, controlling blood sugars and hypertension was also a challenge. But just followed the instructions & while I feel weak now I am almost back to normal,” he responded to a question.

As another netizen asked him for tips that he followed during his isolation, he explained: “1) Follow the advice of medical experts (not WhatsApp experts); 2) Stay strong mentally; plan ahead for post Covid; 3) Stop watching news channels & stop reading unnecessary WhatsApp/Facebook posts; 4) Exercise as much as you can; even walking if you can; 5) Don’t self medicate.”

A question was shot to him about the right channel to seek Covid-related assistance. “Please contact 108/104 for all kinds of questions or issues with respect to Covid. Alternatively, if you are a GHMC resident, you can also call 040-21111111,” the minister replied.

He spent about two hours taking questions exclusively on the Covid situation in the state, and the government’s plans to tackle the pandemic. A number of people wanted to know more about the government’s status on “vaccination for all”. “We are performing better than the national average in vaccination & also better than other states. But the challenge is vaccine availability,” KTR said. He shared a chart which mentioned Telangana’s vaccination performance (per million population) at 1,41,939.

To another question on procuring vaccines at the state level, he replied: “You should know that Govt of India has mandated that 85% of all production be handed over to it. From the remaining 15% all states & institutions have to compete. It’s easier to procure for a few hundred employees but challenge is manifold when your state population is 3.6 crore.”

Choosing another similar question to answer, he said: “We are in discussions with all three vaccine makers; Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute and Dr Reddy Labs. Will do our best to procure as much as we can.” Further, the minister said: “We have the capacity to vaccinate more than 9 lakh people per day. Problem is availability of vaccine which is the biggest challenge.”

“Problem is availability of vaccine brother. We are making all efforts to procure as much as we can. Right now the focus is to get second dose to all those 45 lakh people who have taken the first jab,” he said in another tweet.

According to KTR, the challenge of supplies meeting demand will persist for a few months. “We are working on getting increased supplies from GoI & also are simultaneously engaged in discussions with vaccine manufacturers. But the supplies will only start meeting demand across the country hopefully by late July or early August. Till then it’s going to be a challenge,” he said.

In another reply, he said the state has vaccinated 45.37 lakh people in the age group above 45 years with first dose and 10.3 lakh with second dose. This is of a total population of 92.24 lakh people in the age group. Responding to a question on vaccination drive in Telangana, Minister KTR said, “Ideally 70% population being vaccinated should break the chain. So out of the 2.9 crore adult population, we need to vaccinate 1.9 crore people. Since it’s a 2 dose vaccine, we need 3.8 crore doses.”

The minister went on to answer a question on seeking China’s support by using their vaccine Sinovac. He said, “I think we should set aside all inhibitions/egos and work together as humanity during this hour of crisis. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Sinovac or Pfizer or Moderna or something else, as long as it works and helps save lives.”

A question was asked about procurement of Pfizer vaccine from other countries. In his response, the minister said, “Whatever is allowed by the Drug Controller General of India is what we can procure. So far only three vaccines are available; Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik. Hopefully Pfizer & Moderna will be allowed. By August I am hearing that another Indian vaccine may also be available from BE.”

When a user suggested to the minister that Covaxin, which is being manufactured in Telangana, should be offered to other states after the home state was fully vaccinated, the minister added: “Vaccine regionalism is not allowed brother. Just because someone is manufacturing in our state, we are not entitled to with first right of usage.”

Meanwhile, sharing a chart on bed enhancement between first and second wave, KTR said, “To all those people who’ve been asking about how Telangana improved from 1st wave to 2nd wave in terms of infrastructure/bed availability etc, please refer to below.”

The minister was also asked about oxygen cylinders and remdesivir injections being sold at exorbitant rates. “Challenge on oxygen is availability across the country. Govt of India has taken complete control over distribution by state. On remdesivir, we are doing an audit by private hospital on consumption. Have found some cases of indiscriminate usage & we are also told doctors are under pressure from patients & their attendants to recommend remdesivir even in those cases where it’s not needed (anxiety for well being of their loved ones). We also made arrests of many persons who indulged in black marketing. Continue to audit & contain unnecessary hoarding.”

Answering a question on offline classes in coaching centers in Hyderabad, the minister said, “This is an unprecedented situation. Everyone is going through a hard time. When you have an alternative in the form of online coaching, I don’t think you should complain.”

On whether the four-hour relaxation from lockdown could be kept open for a longer time, the minister said, “Please remember the 6-10 am window is open every day. Secondly, all e-commerce grocery delivery & food delivery options continue to remain functional. In fact we are getting criticism for keeping the 4 hour window open. But this had been done to minimise inconvenience to people.”

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