Poll watchdog should fully relax curbs under the model code: Health Minister
Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar on Thursday urged the Election Commission of India to fully relax the restrictions under the model code of conduct with regard to the pandemic to give the authorities a free hand in tackling the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the State. He also appealed to the Union government to allow an uninterrupted supply of Remdesivir to the State. Excerpts from an interview:
The Advocate-General has informed the Madras High Court that the second wave is getting out of control. How serious is the situation?
It is still possible to control the spread of the virus with active public participation and cooperation. But we need a free hand to manage the second wave. Though the Election Commission has permitted COVID-19-related meetings and tours, they are subject to the norms under the model code of conduct, and we need clearances. Unless we undertake extensive field visits and meet the public, it will not be possible to understand the ground realities… Considering the larger interest of public safety and the rising number of infections, I request the Election Commission to completely relax the norms in respect of activities relating to pandemic management.
How prepared is the health machinery to handle the sudden increase in cases? Beds are getting full at all government hospitals…
Yes, the beds are fast filling at all major government hospitals. We are opening COVID-19 Care Centres to accommodate asymptomatic cases. The State has already created adequate infrastructure, including beds, oxygen pipelines and ventilators, to handle such emergencies. The doctors, paramedical staff and technicians appointed on an urgent basis during the first wave are in service, and we intend to induct more healthcare professionals. But as I have already said, fighting this pandemic is impossible without full public participation. I am worried to see people not wearing masks or maintaining physical distance at many places.
Is the second wave more dangerous than the first? Is Tamil Nadu heading to a lockdown or a night curfew?
I would not compare the first and second waves. Both have their own characteristic features. The fact that the infections are increasing is a cause for concern. But one difference between the first and second wave is that the doctors are now trained to handle the situation effectively. They know the treatment protocol well and how to go about other aspects of pandemic management. Experts are saying the virus is smart and we have to get smarter to beat it. As for a lockdown or a night curfew, there is no such plan now.
Do we have sufficient supply and stock of antiviral drugs and vaccines in the State?
The Central government has ordered all manufacturers of Remdesivir to divert stocks to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. We have placed an order for 2 lakh doses of the anti-viral drug through the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Limited. The vendor is under pressure to divert stocks to other States. I am taking it up with the Union Health Minister to ensure an uninterrupted supply of Remdesivir to Tamil Nadu. We have some stock of the antiviral drug now, but we definitely need to maintain the supply… Cases are rising steadily here.
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