Weird rule or life-saving step? Oppn, Govt spar over vaccination proof to enter shops

Opposition Leader V D Satheesan, Health Minister Veena George
Opposition Leader V D Satheesan, Health Minister Veena George

Thiruvananthapuram: For the second consecutive day in the Assembly the Opposition sought changes to the revised COVID-19 control guidelines and the LDF government yet again refused to entertain the request.

Opposition Leader V D Satheesan said that the revised guidelines would throw open the door for the police to commit excesses in the name of Covid control. "COVID-19 is a health issue, not a law and order one," Satheesan said.

Health Minister Veena George, defending the revised controls, painted a grim picture. "Low-intensity controls will have to be retained as more than 50 percent of the population are still potentially vulnerable to the virus. We have not yet recovered from the second wave and if the third wave hits before the second subsides, we could be in trouble," the health minister said. She said the Opposition was merely trying to bring disrepute to the government. "The Opposition is being highly dismissive. They think that if some bad name comes to the government by opposing these controls, so be it," George said.

It also seemed like the government was unwilling to talk about the police role in Covid controls. The Opposition had moved the adjournment motion in the Assembly on Friday against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, as he was handling the Home portfolio. However, it was the health minister who stood up to speak.

Congress MLA K Babu, who had moved the adjournment motion, looked surprised. "I had moved the motion against the Chief Minister as we wanted to bring to attention the atrocities committed by the police in the name of Covid control," he said.

Here is how Babu described the revised guidelines: "It is like administering a medicine for fever to a patient who requires ventilator support." Babu was referring to the new restrictions on mobility and the insistence on vaccination or RT-PCR negative certificates to enter shops, offices and tourism centres. The Opposition said the new controls were stiffer than what was in place.

The Opposition Leader had first raised the issue as a procedural matter in the Assembly on August 5. He had said that there was conflict between the statement read out by the health minister in the Assembly and the official order that was issued later on the basis of the statement. The minister, while reading out the Resolution, said that it would be “desirable” if only those who satisfy any of three conditions entered shops, offices, commercial establishments and tourism centres. One, those who had taken at least one dose of vaccination. Two, those with an RTPCR negative certificate taken within the last three days. And three, those who had recovered from COVID-19 within a month.

Satheesan said that what was only “desirable” turned mandatory in the order issued by the Chief Secretary. The order also included mobility restrictions that were not part of the Assembly statement. It said that persons will be allowed to move out only for specific activities: medical emergencies, vaccination, to catch a flight, train or bus, death of close relatives and marriages. “If this is the case, even those travelling to their offices could be blocked by the police and slapped fines,” the Opposition Leader had said.

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