Hyderabad: Even as the Telangana High Court has come down heavily on the state government for not testing enough for Covid-19, Health Minister Eatala Rajender believes his government is doing what is best for its people.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint Thursday, Rajender said the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government has been performing its duties responsibly while fighting the pandemic.
“It is us who work tirelessly towards protecting our own… Can others do that? We are the ones who have to bear the brunt if anything goes wrong,” he said. “The commitment towards fighting the pandemic lies with Telangana and not others. Humara kaam chal raha hai (Our work is going on).”
Telangana has been plagued by charges of low testing and not just by the state High Court, which Thursday asked the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government to raise the number of tests being carried out throughout the state as far as is practically and financially feasible.
Earlier this month, the Modi government had also pulled up the KCR administration for its low testing numbers, saying the “lack of proactive testing” will not help the state contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Low testing claims just accusations, inaccurate’
Rajender, however, told ThePrint that claims of poor testing were just “accusations” that are “inaccurate” and “wrong”.
The minister emphasised that the state was testing every single day, especially primary contacts of positive cases in line with guidelines issued by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). He maintained that the state has carried out 30,000 tests so far.
Rajender also said that if indeed the state had not been testing enough, “more critical or serious patients would have come forward, which in turn would have resulted in a larger number of deaths”.
“But we haven’t had as many Covid-19 deaths,” he said. “We have over 60 deaths and about 2,000 cases and not 30,000 cases like other states. The precautions taken by the government during lockdown are proving to be effective.”
As of Friday, Telangana has 2,256 cases with 67 deaths.
On the HC orders directing the state to test dead bodies in accordance with ICMR guidelines, Rajender said bodies were being tested. He, however, later said that nearly 1,000 people (Covid and non-Covid) die in a day in Telangana and that it wouldn’t be possible to test every single one of their bodies.
He also defended his government not allowing private labs to conduct Covid-19 tests despite HC orders. “We are equipped to do the testing,” he said. “If cases increase and our facilities are exhausted, then we will allow them. Otherwise, why burden the poor with such expensive testing procedures by private institutes.”
The health minister further said that Telangana was the first state in the country to have declared lockdown. “Telangana is doing good work and it was our government that detected the Tablighi Jamaat cases and informed the Centre first thing,” he said.
‘Carrying out rigorous tracing’
Rajender told ThePrint that the government has been carrying out intensive contact tracing to contain the pandemic.
He said that for every single person that came forward with cough and cold, the state’s strategy wasn’t limited to simply testing only that individual but also ensuring primary contacts were identified.
The health minister said that the government managed to contain the spread despite having to handle a lot of people who came from abroad. “We tested, treated them and even carried out extensive contact-tracing. Hence, Covid-19 didn’t spread to that extent here,” he said.
He also dismissed the charges that foreign returnees were not being treated in the state capital of Hyderabad. “Around 45 such foreign returnees had tested positive, so one cannot say they were not being tested,” he said. “We tested about 458 such people. Else how did 45 emerge positive from other countries if they weren’t tested?”
Referring to certain districts, including Jogulamba-Gadwal, recording Covid-19 cases during the lockdown, he blamed it on “foreign returnees who were illegal immigrants and those who returned from jail in Dubai and other places”.
Reiterating his government’s preparations to fight the pandemic, Rajender also said: “We have sufficient oxygen, doctors have been provided proper equipment in government hospitals and if god forbid the number of patients increase to a large extent, we have private hospitals too in Hyderabad where patients can be sent.”
He added that the state has several more medical colleges in comparison to other places. “We have 22 private medical colleges and there are about 700 beds in each college,” Rajender said, adding that in all, a total of 54,000 beds are ready to handle Covid-19 patients.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.