Don’t worry about COVID stigma, focus on testing: Modi tells states

Prime Minister hints to the war of words between the Maharashtra government and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan over vaccine shortage and pandemic management

Extending a much-needed succour to states battling the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine shortage together, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a meeting with chief ministers on Thursday on the pandemic, asked states to keep political mud-slinging aside and not to get bogged down if their infection rate is high.

Hinting at the recent war of words between Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and the Maharashtra government over depleting vaccine supply and COVID-19 management, Modi said the foremost priority of states at this juncture should be to test more rather than worrying being stigmatized over high infection rates.

Related news: States tighten COVID restrictions as new cases in India touch record high

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Maharashtra on Thursday recorded the largest single-day spike of 59,907 cases, raising its tally to 3.17 lakh cases.

“This state is completely useless, its numbers are so high. That state is doing so well. Comparing various states became a fashion,” Modi said.

“I told you that you shouldn’t worry a bit if the number of cases is high. Don’t be under any kind of pressure that your performance is bad because your numbers are high. You just focus on testing, I’m telling you even now. There is no reason to think you are doing badly if your numbers are high…There will be more positive cases if you do more testing,” he added.

The Maharashtra government was one of the first few states which sent SOS messages to the Centre about running out of COVID-19 vaccines. Health minister Rajesh Tope told the centre that several vaccination centres are being closed due to shortage of jabs and the state has only 14 lakh doses left to last three days.

However, in a stinging rebuttal, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan while terming the call for more vaccines “utterly baseless” accused the state government of first having been irresponsible in managing the pandemic and then spreading panic among people.

It was only later that the Centre which had kept aside 7 lakh doses to be dispatched to the state added another 10 lakh jabs to the consignment. Tope, however, called it inadequate, adding that the state needs 40 lakh vaccine doses in a week.

At the meeting with chief ministers, Modi said testing was the only way to stem the spread of the disease. “Our target is to conduct 70 per cent RT-PCR tests. I have unverified reports of lethargy by some officials while conducting tests. Proper results won’t come without proper testing,” he said.

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The country on Friday added an all-time high of 1.31 lakh single-day infections, which took its total tally to 1,67,642 cases. This is the highest single-day spike since October 2020. 

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