Updated: July 21, 2021 7:10:07 am
IN A rare outburst from a government official, Telangana’s Director of Public Health G Srinivasa Rao on Tuesday censured political leaders of all hues for violating Covid-19 protocols and putting the lives of the people in danger, and negating gains made by the state’s health officials in containing the spread of the pandemic.
Rao, who is often praised for his handling of the pandemic in Telangana, said while political leaders think they are doing their job in a democracy, they are also putting lives of their party workers, supporters, and general public at risk by not adhering to the Covid rules and restrictions.
“Elections in the state are still two-and-half years away but leaders of all political parties are behaving as if elections are due shortly. They are holding rallies, party workers’ meetings and public functions, and opposition parties are holding dharnas and protests without any care. It is an invitation to the third wave of Covid-19,” Rao told reporters.
“None of the political leaders wear masks while addressing party workers or speaking in public or holding rallies. There is no question of social distancing at these political programmes. Political leaders should keep in mind the health of people around them. There are indicators that Covid-19 cases are slowly rising again and political leaders should keep that in mind,” he said. “When they and their followers do not wear masks and maintain social distancing, they are playing with the health of others.”
“After the first and second waves of Covid-19, the doctors, health workers, all those in the healthcare system, and police and government officials who are working round the clock are tired now. The system is exhausted. They need rest to recoup. If political leaders continue to behave so irresponsibly, all the gains we made in controlling the spread of virus would be lost,” Rao said.
While Congress has been holding rallies and dharnas against fuel price rise, the BJP has been holding public meetings against the TRS government, accusing it of corruption among other issues. In Huzurabad assembly constituency, where a bypoll is due, local TRS leaders have been holding meetings and public rallies.
Rao said the state’s aggressive strategy to control Covid-19 in the second wave has been successful till now as compared to neighbouring states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. The state has less than 1,000 new cases daily at present.
“Telangana has the lowest positivity rate compared to neighbouring states, and this is the time when we have control over the spread of virus… But I and health department officials and field staff are horrified to see how people are going about as if there is no Covid-19 virus around them,” he said.
While BJP leaders declined to comment, AICC spokesperson Dasoju Sravan said the state health department officials should have warned the ruling TRS leaders when they campaigned without any care in Nagarjuna Sagar assembly constituency ahead of the April bypoll.
“So many political leaders campaigned there that thousands of people in that constituency got infected…The health director or government did not say anything then,” he said. He denied that the state Congress was organising any public meeting or rally in huge numbers.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rao said adhering to Covid protocols was essential. “We health workers understand that marriage functions, festival celebrations, religious gatherings etc are important to our communities but in spite of knowing about Covid-19, they do not wear masks, do not maintain social distance, and gather in groups, which is detrimental,” he said. “Since the pandemic started, we have fought against it but if people do not continue to take precautions, we will lose the fight.”
On the vaccinations, Rao said, “Vaccine hesitation is high in Telangana but still we got nearly 1.5 crore population the first dose. We are getting another 4.5 lakh doses Tuesday evening and we will go to work again.”
State health officials, including ASHA and ANM workers, conducted 4-5 surveys of over 1.5 crore households to detect Covid symptoms and provide treatment. Rao said these surveys helped to detect the infected early and provide treatment at home itself instead of having to go to hospitals.
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