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Gujarat govt move for fewer Covid-19 tests 'pushing' people to edge: Activists, academics

Mallika Sarabhai, Prakash Shah, Fr Cedric Prakash, Prof Navdeep Mathur
By Our Representative
About 100 concerned citizens, including top social activists and experts, have strongly protested against the Gujarat government’s alleged move to “dictate” the medical community to “reduce” Covid-19 tests in order to suggest that the state has fewer number of cononavirus positive patients, stating, this is nothing but “criminal negligence” which would “push people towards death without their knowledge.”
Signed among others by well-known danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, litterateur Prakash Shah, human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash, and Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) professor Navdeep Mathur, in a letter to chief minister Vijay Rupani, they said, the “decision” to have fewer tests was taken after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed that 80% infected patients of Covid-19 were asymptomatic, and testing alone across cross sections could help identify infected patients and new clusters in order to stop spreading the pandemic.
Contending that the state government has been negligent towards the Covid-19 crisis from the very beginning, the letter said, before the ICMR insistence on tests, these were being conducted in a very selective manner. Worse, doctors and nurses were not being provided with safety gears, and the lockdown was enforced with the aid of police and drone.
Currently, the letter said, the situation is that a fear psychosis of getting infected is prevailing among medical, paramedical and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) staff, adding, working day and night, without any protective equipment, our saviours are under duress and are in dismayed.
Though attempts are made to “bury” the dangerous spread of Covid-19, in the last 10 days, the number of cases has doubled and the recovery rate in Gujarat is as low as 9.8%, one of the lowest in India and has been decreasing day by day, the letter said, adding, the situation has come to such a pass that the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner has gone so far as to say that by May 31 over 8 lakh cases of Covid-19 positive could be reported in Ahmedabad alone.
The letter comes amidst a state-run centre claim that high Covid-19 mortality rate in Gujarat could be due to the dominance of the L-type strain
The letter comes amidst the state-run Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) claiming that the high Covid-19 mortality rate in Gujarat could be due to the dominance of the L-type strain of coronavirus, found to have been more prevalent in Wuhan in China, where the outbreak started. Gujarat reported 133 deaths till April 27.
Pointing out that the commissioner’s statement is extremely scary, with people wondering what would befall their, the letter said, this situation is building up amidst “punitive measures” taken by police and administration, with “abiding citizens” being booked “under various penal clauses, arrested and fined”, and efforts to “communalize and politicize” the pandemic.
Asking the government to come up with a clear roadmap to fight the pandemic in the post-lockdown period, the letter demanded “safety gears in sufficient quantity to doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, cleaners, ambulance drivers, police and others.”
Also demanding increase the rate of Covid-19 testing, the letter said, there should be “sufficient arrangements for the indoor patients in the hospitals as well as corona care centres”, with private hospitals being asked to provide free treatment and care to all. At the same time, it added, sufficient “food, ration, cash doles and other necessities” should be provided to the poor and the needy.”
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