Patna/ Delhi: The recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Bihar has sharpened a debate that — How Bihar is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. And also how the next assembly election in the state will be conducted amid the grim situation? These are the burning issues of the state, which were addressed recently during the 1st session of HEAL-Thy Samvaad Episode-3.
When asked about the upcoming assembly election in the state amid the lengthening curve of COVID-19, while addressing the HEAL-Thy Samvaad Episode-3, Dr Ashok Choudhary, Minister of Building Construction Department, Bihar, said,“We never expected such an unfortunate situation but it is upon us now, and due to the increasing rate of COVID-19 incidence, again, two weeks of lockdownfrom 16-31st July has been announced to curb its upsurge. As far as the assembly election in the state is concerned, it’s a constitutional obligation, and the Election Commission has the discretion to take the final call.”
He further said, “We are planning to conduct virtual campaign (meetings, rallies) to avoid physical contact during the election campaign. This way we will maintain social distancing as it helps check the upsurge of the lengthening curve, because for us, people’s lives and their health are of prime importance.”
“Regarding the time and safe mode of voting, whatever rules and regulations in the pretext of COVID-19 scenario are elicited by the election commission, being a responsible political party, we will follow each and every protocol”, he added.
Answering a query raised by Senior Journalist and Former Director-General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC)Prof. KG Suresh about the preparedness for election and holding in such a time when the pandemic is on the gradual rise during the Samvaad, Dr Chowdhary said, “Bihar is not the only place where an election will take place during the COVID-19 crisis. Recently, elections have held in South Korea and Singapore. Also, the US is planning to have its presidential elections in November. So, whatever decision election commission takes regarding the conduct of the election, we will follow that.”
For the last four days in Bihar, fresh COVID-19 cases have been breaching the 1,000-mark, with infection rate rising consistently, and the total recorded cases in the state have crossed the 20,000-mark. Given the situation, when asked what steps Bihar Govt. is taking to tackle the situation, he said.
“The state govt. has increased the workforce in the hospitals, besides increasing the number of isolation centres. Currently, 10,000 tests are being done daily, and there is a plan to increase it to 15,000 per day soon. The Primary Health Centres (PHCs) are also equipped. Govt. officials are visiting personally to inculcate awareness in the villages around COVID. And two free masks are being distributed in each family.”
Responding to a query of Dr Swadeep Srivastava, Founder HEAL Foundation during the Samvaad, on the permission of allowing private hospitals for testing and treatment considering the limited govt. hospitals and COVID centres, Dr Chowdhary said, “The govt. has identified some private hospitals and allowed some for testing also, but there is a guideline of ICMR that at least 50 beds in each hospital are required, which we have to adhere to.”