By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 15 Apr: Uttarakhand Government and the state administration seem to be confused over curbing the rapid rise in the spread of the Corona pandemic. Chief Secretary Om Prakash today indicated that the government could ban entry of outsiders in the state secretariat and for the time being also restrict the entry of media persons in view of the pandemic assuming an alarming level in the state. Not only this, sources claimed that in view of the demand from various unions of the state government employees, the administration is also mulling capping attendance in the offices at 50 percent with full attendance of class one officers. Besides this, the government is also considering restricting the entry of the general public in the state and district administration offices.
These indications come at a time, when just days ago, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat had directed the district collectors and other district level officers to sit in their main offices rather than in camp offices and be available to the public and deal with their grievances every day.
Sources further disclosed that some offices and departments have already begun avoiding meeting people and even media persons under the pretext of the Covid pandemic. Just as this is happening, the state universities are running regular classes, putting the students at risk. The Kumbh Mela is underway despite the fact that Haridwar has turned into a hotspot for Corona. Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das of Akhil Bharatiya Nirvani Akhara, aged about 65 years, died of Covid infection, today, at a private hospital in Dehradun. There are reports of many other seers also contacting the Covid infection. Hailing from Chitrakoot, Das was admitted to a Dehradun hospital complaining of breathlessness on 12 April. Sources state that, at least 32 seers currently in Haridwar for the Kumbh have so far contacted Covid infection. While some days ago, the Uttarakhand High Court had directed that, at least 50,000 RTPCR tests be held in Haridwar during the Kumbh period, but in reality, the number of tests being conducted is nowhere near the targeted number. For example, the total number of RTPCR tests conducted in Haridwar and sent to the labs for testing today stood at 25,787 only. On the other hand, random testing of the Kumbh devotees coming to Haridwar is being done mostly by Rapid Antigen method, which is not considered to be conclusive. A negative rapid antigen report is common even in confirmed cases of Corona infection.
However, with the third Shahi Snan having passed off yesterday on the day of Baisakhi, sources indicated that the government could consider imposing more restrictions at the Kumbh. Chief Secretary Om Prakash today indicated that, in view of the rising Corona cases in Haridwar, orders had been issued to conduct at least 50,000 RTPCR tests per day. He added that, along with the people coming to Kumbh, the seers coming to Kumbh would also be required to come with a negative Corona test report issued within the past 72 hours. Om Prakash said that there was enough availability of beds in the hospitals in Uttarakhand to treat Corona patients. Patients could also be admitted to private hospitals if the current wave lasted longer. He added that there was no possibility of postponing the written test scheduled for recruitment of nursing staff as there was an urgent need for greater number of nursing officials in view of the pandemic. Care would however be taken to ensure that the Covid guidelines are strictly adhered to in conducting the exams.
Sources, meanwhile, claimed that the government is also considering reserving up to 25 percent of beds in private hospitals for Covid patients in case the fresh wave of the pandemic continues. While the schools in the state have been closed till 30 April, there has been no decision regarding universities and colleges. Also, while the CBSE Board has cancelled examinations for Class 10 and postponed those for Class 12, the state government is yet to announce any such decision for the state board schools. Also, so far, the night curfew in Dehradun has been implemented somewhat casually. Even in the day, the Police as well as the district administration continue to appear lax towards enforcing Covid SOPs like wearing of masks and ensuring social distancing at all public places including the markets, banks and offices.
By Arun Pratap Singh