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Newly-inducted Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, speaking at the Monsoon session parliament on Tuesday, 20 July, stated that the Centre has not tampered with the data on COVID-19 case numbers or deaths.
Responding to allegations about the fudging of data related to COVID-19 numbers, the health minister noted, "The Centre compiles and publishes the data sent in by state governments. Our work is to publish that data, and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show less numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases."
Mandaviya further stated that the Centre has 'never done politics over the pandemic'.
"Our government has always said that this crisis shouldn't become a reason for politics. There shouldn't be politics in this crisis... PM Modi has said that when 130 crore people of India take one step forward, the country can move forward by 130 crore steps," Mandaviya was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Addressing the issue of the Centre's collaboration with the states over the tackling of the second wave of the COVID-19 and vaccine distribution, the health minister emphasised on the need for a collective effort against pandemic.
"When there's need to work together and implementation has to be done by the states, at that time we never said that this state failed or that state didn't do this. I don't want to do politics but many states have 10-15 lakh doses of vaccines with them; I have data," Mandaviya stated in the Rajya Sabha, as per an ANI report.
He further said that the states are given vaccine availability projections 15 days in advance, and should plan their inoculation drives accordingly.
The Health Minister's Comments on Vaccine Procurement and COVID 3rd Wave
"When we speak of the third wave, the 130 crore people – the common people, all state governments – should make a collective decision that we won't let a third wave hit our country. Our resolution and PM Modi's guidance can save us from a third wave," Mandaviya stated in the Rajya Sabha.
Speaking about the procurement of vaccines by the Centre ahead of the imminent third wave of COVID-19, the health minister indicated that 11-12 crore doses of SII's Covishield are being acquired by the government per month.
He also shared that 3.5 crore doses of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin will be supplied to the Centre in August.
316 oxygen plants out of 1,573 planned have been commissioned by the Centre, while the process for the rest will be set in motion by the end of August, Mandaviya stated.
The health minister also dismissed the speculations suggesting a greater impact of the third wave on children, who are not eligible for vaccination in India yet. He further noted that pharmaceutical companies Zydus Cadila and Bharat Biotech are in the process of conducting trials of COVID-10 vaccines on children, news agency PTI reported.
Govt Flouted COVID Norms for Polls: Opposition in Rajya Sabha
Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge on Tuesday severely criticised the Modi-led government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that while the Centre asked people to wear masks and maintain social distancing, they were 'breaking their own rules' during different state elections. "They should be given credit for flouting COVID norms," Kharge said.
He also stressed that instead of taking the blame, Prime Minister Modi made Health Minster Harsh Vardhan, who resigned ahead of the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, a scapegoat.
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)'s Sushil Kumar Gupta said:
"Changing the health minister, will not change the healthcare system. In order to improve the healthcare system, health budget ought to be increased."
Further, TMC MP Dr Santanu Sen claimed:
"Tamil Nadu had polls for 234 Assembly seats in a day. West Bengal with 294 Assembly seats had polls in 8 phases. Infection rate was 2.3 percent before polls but after 8 phases, it rose to 33 percent. Kudos to our CM, it has again come down to below 1.8 percent."
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)