“No Religion, God Says Put Lives At Risk For Festivals”: Health Minister

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare responded to a volley of questions fielded by his social media interactors on the fifth episode of Sunday Samvaad. Sternly squashing rumours and removing popular misconceptions regarding COVID, the Health Minister gave detailed information on the role of Ayurveda in the fight against COVID, ICMR’s upcoming study on cases of reinfection, the selection criteria for vaccination and other critical information regarding the much touted COVID Vaccine.Upon learning on the various difficulties faced by his constituents in Chandni Chowk, Delhi he shared his contact details in the public platform as a response and assured that all issues faced by people in his constituency would be resolved on priority.

Warning people to stay away from large congregations and diligently follow the guidelines issued by the government regarding precautions to be taken, Dr. Harsh Vardhan requested people to celebrate upcoming festivals at home, with their loved ones, instead of going out to fairs and pandals. Reminding people that fighting against COVID is the foremost Dharma, he explained that his Dharma as the Health Minister of the country is to mitigate the virus and prevent deaths at any cost. “The Bhagwad Gita condones war for the warrior class. So, there is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion. If we do this, we may be heading for big trouble. Lord Krishna says concentrate on your goal..my goal and your goal .. OUR goal is to finish this virus and save humanity. This is our religion. The religion of the whole world.”

He added that “Extraordinary circumstances must draw extraordinary responses. No religion or God says that you have to celebrate in an ostentatious way, that you have to visit pandals and temples and mosques to pray”. He exhorted citizens to join the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji’s clarion call to take a pledge and join the massive country-wide awareness campaign and “Jan Andolan” during the two months (including the winter season) so that the pandemic does not spread further. Dr Harsh Vardhan shared the possibility of increased novel coronavirus transmission during winters as it is a respiratory virus and the transmission of respiratory viruses is known to increase during the colder weather. “These viruses are known to thrive better in the cold weather and low humidity conditions. In view of these, it would not be wrong to assume that the winter season may see increased rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus in the Indian context too,” he noted. Adhering to the Covid appropriate behaviours of wearing masks/face covers, especially when in public places, regularly washing of hands and maintaining of respiratory etiquette ill help us to contain the spread of the diseases, he reiterated firmly.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan shared the good news of the rollout of the FELUDA Test in the near future. Based on tests in over 2000 patients during the trials at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and on testing in private labs, the test showed 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity. This compares favourably to ICMR’s current acceptation criteria of RT-PCR Kit of at least 95% Sensitivity and at least 99% Specificity, he stated. He added that the Feluda paper strip test for SRS-CoV-2 diagnosis has been developed by CSIR-IGIB and has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch. The kit has already been validated by the Department of Atomic Energy’s National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. “While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks”, he said.

On the issue of how the government plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine by prioritizing target groups in the entire population, he clarified that it is anticipated that supplies of COVID-19 vaccines would be available in limited quantities in the beginning. He said “In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritize vaccine delivery based on various factors such as per risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among COVID Cases, and several others.” He also added that India is looking at the availability of several different types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not be.

Union health miister Dr Harsh Vardhan today gave the people a reality check. “There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion… You can pray to your gods at your homes. I would suggest that all of you celebrate festivals with your families,” he said, pointing to coronavirus which is still on rampage.

The country today crossed the 70-lakh mark in the overall number of covid cases, and stands slightly behind the US, which is the worst sufferer, logging more than 76 lakh cases.

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