Any huge gathering contributes to a surge in Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant is highly infectious, Uttar Pradesh’s Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh told NDTV when asked if recent political rallies have caused a spike. When pointed out that both the state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were seen maskless at pre-election events, he suggested it may be an isolated occasion and that the CM insists that everyone around him wears masks. “Before the election announcement, there were a lot of programs scheduled involving the PM and the CM but we decided to call off all meetings and events when we noticed a spike in Covid cases, even before the Election Commission announced the poll dates,” he said.
Mr Singh said that the state government has started putting in measures in all districts that have crossed 2,000 cases and is trying to ensure through the district administration that Covid appropriate behaviour is followed. “We are ensuring that big meetings and small nukkad sabhas (street gatherings) don’t take place. Every person must wear masks at all times,” he said about measures being taken by the state in light of the state assembly elections that start on February 10.
In the first and second waves, there were much fewer Covid cases in villages than in big cities, he noted. “This is what I have noticed this time as well. In smaller districts, numbers are isolated and not very large and it’s easily manageable as well,” he said, adding that it could be because of “herd immunity”.
On vaccination numbers, he claimed that 47% of people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine. “We have ramped up vaccination in the last 10 to 15 days. Average 17 to 18 lakhs per day,” he added.
Mr Singh also pointed out that since UP is the most populous state in the country so percentages appear small. In absolute numbers, the numbers are high and in tune with the rest of the country, he said.
Conceding that there was a shortage of Oxygen in the state last year, he said that it was a pan-India crisis but measures were immediately taken to remedy the situation. “The PM took cognisance immediately and the entire production of Oxygen was taken over by the central government. Each state was allocated a certain quantity to be lifted from various areas. We helped a lot of oxygen refillers, got them restarted, and made sure oxygen was easily available to all govt hospitals, medical colleges, district hospitals, hospitals linked to private medical colleges, and big hospitals,” he said.
Mr Singh pointed out that there was a shortage of oxygen all over the country, and UP also had its share. “We worked on it and ensured that the crisis was resolved,” he said.