Thiruvananthapuram: Hours after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reportedly said Kerala had gone from "best to worse" in COVID control and attributed it to "gross negligence", State Health Minister K K Shailaja claimed that the central minister had denied having said anything on those lines.
"I called up Harsh Vardhan-ji personally as he had repeatedly praised our efforts, and had also given us immense support despite political differences. He said he had not said any such thing," Shailaja said in a Facebook Live on Sunday.
She said the union health minster told her that while doing his Sunday Live programme, a representative from Uttar Pradesh had asked him why there was a rise in cases in Kerala. "What he said in response was what the Chief Minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) and myself had said, that crowds were formed as part of the Onam celebration in violation of the protocols in place. After this, cases began to rise in Kerala and he said that this should be a lesson for other states. He told me that it was only as a warning to other states, where many festivals are around the corner, that he mentioned this," she said.
Shailaja said she shared the union minister's sentiment. "The Chief Minister himself had told this. Apart from Onam, the Chief Minister had also spoken of how crowds at functions like marriages and various political protests staged across the state had given people the impression that such get-together held no risk at all," she added.
She said she had also reminded the union minister that Kerala still had the lowest fatality rate in the country. She also said the union minister assured her that he would "clear" a line, critical of Kerala, that was found in his twitter account about Kerala. "How did Kerala go from best to worst performing against COVID-19", his twitter handle said.
"He also told me that cases showed a surge when Kerala was doing extremely well. He said he was only pointing out this fact," Shailaja said. She was all praise for the union minister saying he had a positive attitude and would speak only after getting a proper understanding of things.
Shailaja also said the number of testing in the state has not been deliberately reduced and has been scientifically rearranged. "The low mortality rate is a proof that there is nothing wrong with the low test," Shailaja added. "Those with symptoms and those came in close contact with them are being tested for coronavirus."
The minister also urged people to self-restrict their activities. Kerala has succeeded in reducing COVID fatalities, the minister said. "State's COVID-19 mortality rate till October was 0.34 percent. It is 0.28 per cent in this month (October)."