Covid cases to surge from migrant influx, but we are ready: Harsh Vardhan

Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, May 24 : Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that coronavirus cases will increase in different parts of the country till the migrant influx continues. However, he assured that the situation is being closely monitored and the country’s health infrastructure is ready to handle the situation.

The Minister said this in a social media ‘interview’ with BJP leader G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who asked about the “strategic and gradual exit from the lockdown”.

“Many restrictions in this lockdown were lifted as per the strategic and gradual exit of the country from it. Number of (active) cases in the country is nearly 70,000 now. As per my knowledge, now we can treat even 10 lakh Covid patients at one time. What message would you give to the people of this country when the lockdown is about to be lifted and there are chances of rise in the number of cases?” asked Rao.

In response, Harsh Vardhan said: “If we have relaxed the lockdown and are sending lakhs of migrant workers to their destinations with confidence, that clearly indicates that we know our situation and are closely monitoring it. Our strategies are ready. We are testing migrant workers and quarantining them.

“I think for one to two weeks, the cases will increase till all of them reach their states.

“However I want to say to people of this country that if the relaxations are used optimally with discipline, by following social distancing and hygiene, using masks etc, we will be able to restore normal life.”

He also said that many experts including one from the US had predicted that there will be millions of cases and deaths in India between May and June. “Fortunately, nothing like that happened. The PM had given instructions and guidance to handle the worst scenario even as there were only a few cases in the country,” he said.

Harsh Vardhan also said that learning “from the experience of countries like Italy etc where numbers spiked due to common hospitals, we earmarked dedicated Covid hospitals, separate Covid Health and Covid Care centres. There are 2.5 lakh beds of isolation plus ICU and oxygen, 1.7 lakh beds in 2,065 Covid Health Centres. We created 7,063 Covid care centres in the country which have 6.5 lakh beds.

“All combined, it goes to over 10 lakh. We have also reserved beds in private hospitals but I don’t think that there will be a requirement. There are more than 10,000 quarantine centres in the country.”

The Minister said that now the country has the capacity of doing 1.10 lakh tests per day.

“From one lab in February in the country, we now have 599 labs including 422 government labs. We have prophylactic medicine hydroxychloroquine for our people as well as other countries too. We are fully prepared to handle even the worst scenario. I want to assure the country that they need not to worry about it.”

Noting that India successfully handled the situation during dangerous diseases like Nipah and Ebola, Harsh Vardhan said: “We know the location of our Covid cases due to our surveillance mechanism and are doing everything required as per the strategy to stop it from spreading.”

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