Attempts to Defame Kerala: CM Vijayan After Harsh Vardhan’s Remark

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that Kerala’s epidemic curve changed completely due to Onam festivities. 

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Union Home Minister Harsh Vardhan’s remarks, attributing Kerala’s rising COVID-19 graph with alleged “gross negligence” of precautionary norms during Onam, has not gone down well with the state’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

According to news agency ANI, Chief Minister Vijayan on Monday, 19 October, said that “some people are trying to defame Kerala without understanding facts” regarding the containment strategy adopted by the southern state.

Maintaining that Kerala was the first state to report, set-up protocols and contain control coronavirus in India, Vijayan said that allegations of relaxations during Onam are not true.

“It is not true that during Onam festival, Kerala government gave many relaxations. When Kerala govt was focusing on COVID-19 activities, the Opposition parties sent wrong message to society by organising large scale protests violating all COVID-19 protocol.”
Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister 

Vijayan, however, added that the Union Health Minister has always praised Kerala’s containment strategy and that his comments on Onam should be seen in a ‘constructive way’ ahead of upcoming festivities in north India.

What Exactly Did Harsh Vardhan Say?

Commenting on the upward trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Kerala, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on Sunday, 18 October, said that the southern state had paid the “price of its gross negligence” as social distancing measures were violated during large festivities organised to celebrate Onam in September, reported news agency IANS.

Speaking on his weekly Sunday Samvaad programme, Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the number of daily new cases had ‘nearly doubled’ following Onam.

“There were huge congregations during Onam and adequate safety measures were not taken. Epi(demic) curve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the state... the daily new cases nearly doubled.”
Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister

In the first week of May 2020, Kerala had won accolades for bracketing the number of active COVID-19 cases in the state to just 20. However, the state has added over three lakh cases since then and is presently reporting 7,000 to 10,000 cases daily.

Apart from ‘gross negligence’ during Onam, Vardhan said that state-wise unlocking of services, along with an increase in intra- and inter-state travel for trade and tourism, led to the spreading of COVID-19 cases across various districts of Kerala.

“I would say other states should learn a lesson from Kerala’s spurt due to negligence during the Onam season. All states need to be careful during the upcoming festival season and ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour. Otherwise, it may result in a rapid increase in cases across India. This caution must be exercised over the next three months at least.”
Harsh Vardhan, as quoted by The Indian Express.

Two Intranasal Vaccines in the Works

During the programme, the minister informed that Bharat Biotech will develop an intranasal vaccine for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. He added that the Hyderabad-based drugs and vaccine research and manufacturing company has entered into an agreement with the Washington University and the St. Louis University for the trials of the nasal vaccine candidate.

“It (Bharat Biotech) has entered into an agreement with Washington University’s School of Medicine under which the company will conduct trials, produce and market an intranasal vaccine for the COVID-19.”
Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister

The minister also informed that the Phase 1 of the trials will take place at St Louis University's vaccine and treatment evaluation unit, while further stages of the trials will be conducted in India.

Vardhan also informed about the development of another intranasal vaccine by the US-based biotech company Codagenix, along with Serum Institute of India.

"Codagenix is collaborating with the Serum Institute of India to develop CDX-005, which is the company's intranasal, live-attenuated vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2. The preclinical animal studies have been successfully completed, and Codagenix expects to initiate a Phase 1 first-in-human clinical trial in the UK by the end of 2020," he said.

CDX-005 is a single dose intranasal vaccine made with a live attenuated version of the virus.

Community Transmission Limited to States: Harsh Vardhan

In addition, Minister Harsh Vardhan also admitted that India is in the community transmission stage, although he said that the trend is limited only to certain districts and states.

The statement has come in the backdrop of West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's admission on Monday that the community transmission of COVID-19 has started in the state.

(With inputs from IANS and The Indian Express)

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