Coronavirus | Union Minister V. Muraleedharan questions State’s reporting of cases and containment strategy

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Union Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan on Friday said the number of COVID-19 positive cases in Kerala could be much higher than officially reported given the State’s “dismal” record in random population testing.

Escalating his war of words with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over Kerala’s containment strategy, Mr. Muraleedharan said in a Facebook post that the number of random tests in Kerala (372 per lakh of the population) was much lower than the national average (553 per lakh of the population).

If the number of tests conducted was any yardstick of effective pandemic control, Kerala ranked 28th among States. The low number of tests belied the Kerala government’s claim that it had successfully controlled community spread in the State.

Mr. Vijayan had belatedly woken up to the need to increase testing among the general populace. He had said that by July, the government would increase the number of tests to 15,000. The CM knew that increased examination would reveal the actual spread of the disease in Kerala.

Hence, to lessen the blame for the State’s flawed containment strategy, Mr. Vijayan has made the allowance for the inevitable increase in cases by predicting a spike in new infections in August, Mr. Muralidheeran said.

He said Mr. Vijayan had crowed about containing the epidemic without any scientific basis. The CM has leaned heavily on propaganda and political doublespeak to convey the impression the State government had triumphed over the pandemic.

For one, the CM’s office falsely claimed on Thursday that the Ministry of External Affairs had congratulated the State government’s effort to bring back expatriates.

The MEA had only “complimented” the State for abandoning its earlier position that only persons producing COVID-19 negative medical certification at the port of departure would be allowed to board flights to Kerala.

The Centre had told the State that it could not insist that expatriates be tested for COVID-19 at foreign airports before flying to India. Kerala had made an unreasonable demand that discriminated against expatriates in the Gulf. He also criticised Mr Vijayan for referring to expatriates as super-spreaders of the coronavirus.

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