Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who visited Vadodara on Wednesday to take stock of the Covid-19 situation, has appealed to organisers of various religious festivals to voluntarily suspend all celebrations that could result in large gatherings. Rupani appealed to the organisers of Ganesh Utsav, Janmashtami, Ambaji Utsav and the Tazia processions for Muharram, celebrations for which are lined up in August, to encourage believers to observe rituals in their personal spaces.
Rupani said, “The government is clear that no social celebrations should be held. We are appealing to organisations to voluntarily cancel their celebrations. When such decisions are made by people on their own accord, it results in better implementation. We will issue a notification soon but as of now, immediate festivals and religious events such as Ganesh Utsav, Janmashtami, Bhadarvi Poonam for Ambaji Utsav and the Tazia processions, should be cancelled. People should pray in their homes.”
“We will take a call on Navratri celebrations later. If the Covid-19 situation prevails, it will also be cancelled,” he added.
Ahead of Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel’s arrival in the city, Vadodara Police detained 25 beneficiaries of the Sanjay Nagar Warasiya housing project, who have been protesting for the last three weeks and demanding immediate relocation. The residents, who were displaced in 2017, had gathered at New VIP Road near the airport and were chanting slogans.
The CM said that the government has “risen above politics” in the midst of the pandemic. “We are not playing any politics – Congress MLAs and BJP MLAs have been infected with Covid. We are giving the best treatment to both. When (Congress leader) Bharatsinh Solanki was admitted to Bankers Hospital in Vadodara, I had called him and told him to reach out to me if he needed any help. We are calling Congress leaders to tell them that we are here for them,” Rupani said.
He said that in the discussion held with the district’s administrative officers — Officer on Special Duty Vinod Rao, District Collector Shalini Agarwal, Municipal Commissioner Nalin Upadhyay and Commissioner of Police Anupamsinh Gahlaut, among others — the district health department has been instructed to double the testing rate.
“We have decided to increase testing from Thursday… We have made provisions for testing kits and all necessary equipment… There will be no shortage of ventilators,” Rupani said, announcing a grant of Rs 5 crore from the Chief Minister’s Relief fund to Vadodara and another Rs 5 crore from the state health department’s budget.
Rupani expressed concern about bringing down the district’s mortality rate. “We have decided that in Dabhoi, Padra, Savli and Vadodara city, where the spread is higher, there has to be surveillance once a week via Dhanvantri Raths. Door-to-door distribution of preventive ayurvedic and homeopathic medicines is also being undertaken.”
Rupani also said that the government is considering the request of the Indian Medical Association to include private doctors who die of Covid under the government insurance cover for ‘Corona Warriors.’
The CM addressed the issue of scarcity of Tocilizumab and Remdesivir and said that the state government is now procuring a substitute, Itolizumab, to meet the shortage. “These are expensive, but we have already bought and distributed injections worth Rs 35 crore from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
‘Ramping up testing’
Earlier in the day, Rupani said in Rajkot that Gujarat government was testing more than “WHO recommendation of 140 tests per million”.
“Both the state and the Central governments are ramping up testing by setting up new laboratories and relevant infrastructure. In Gujarat, there was a time when only 4,000 samples were being tested daily. Yesterday, as many as 22,000 samples were tested. This is higher than WHO recommendation of 140 tests per million people and we have issued instructions to increase this even further,” the CM said, adding the number of sample testing in Rajkot will be doubled from Thursday onwards.
Rupani’s visit to Rajkot comes a day after the total number of confirmed cases in Rajkot city went past 1,000. Rajkot is located in the centre of Saurashra-Kutch regions and many people from other districts are coming to Rajkot for treatment. Rupani said the government had taken this into account while discussing the situation with local officers, elected representatives and members of the Indian Medical Association on Wednesday. “We have completed the planning to make available 2,500 beds. Gujarat got off the block ahead of others by asking private clinics and hospitals to remain open during the lockdown… There is no need for concern today as 50 per cent beds are occupied and equal number of them are empty,” Rupani said.
The CM added that he had allotted an additional Rs 5 crore to Rajkot for tackling the pandemic. He said that vegetable vendors and provision-store keepers would be tested in Rajkot and issued health cards.
He also denied the allegation that the state government was not revealing true figures of Covid-19 deaths. ” We didn’t hide the numbers when the death rate was seven per cent so why would we do it when the rate has come down to four per cent? But yes, there can be deaths primarily to Covid-19 and secondarily due to comorbidities. In the latter cases, when patient become critical due to other illnesses, Covid-19 could be the secondary cause of death,” said Rupani.