Lockdown is a pause button, it won’t defeat Covid: Rahul Gandhi

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

Rahul Gandhi   -  AFP

Congress leader urges Centre to adopt aggressive testing, empower States to fight pandemic

Former Congress president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday that containing Covid-19 without scaling up testing may not be possible.

Warning the Centre against announcing victory in the fight, he said strategic measures should be taken to fight both the pandemic and the economic distress that is expected to set in due to the lockdown.

States must be given power and resources to fight Covid, he further said. He also asked the Centre to release foodgrains from granaries to the poor.

“The biggest weapon against the virus is testing. Testing at a scale so you know where the virus is moving and you can isolate and fight it. Our testing rate is 199 per million and if you look at all tests that have been done it’s an average of 350 per district,” Rahul told reporters via video conferencing.

He said the lockdown allows time and space to bring in medical resources, ramp up testing abilities, prepare hospitals and get ventilators. “A misconception that I want to clear is, in no way does a lockdown defeat the virus; it stops the virus for sometime,” he said. “The first thing to understand is that a lockdown is like a pause button — it’s in no way a solution to the coronavirus. When we come out of the lockdown, the virus will start its work again. So, it’s important that we have a strategy to come out of the lockdown.”

Concerted effort

“We are in a very serious situation, that is clear, and I think all political parties have to work together and the people of India have to work together if we want to solve this problem and defeat this virus,” said Rahul.

He asked the Centre to use testing to assist States in their fight, not just to track patients but to see where the virus is moving. “Our strength in fighting Covid-19 is at the State and district level. The success in Wayanad has been due to the district level machinery. So, the fight against Covid should not be top-down but bottom-up. The Prime Minister should empower States,” he said.

Commenting on the decision of the Centre to suspend MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) for two years, he said it is not a core issue now. “Our focus should be on the exact use of our resources,” he said, keeping away from making political comments. “Let’s forget what has happened so far with testing. We are in an emergency situation now. All of India needs to fight this together. We have to work not by adopting weak methods but with a strategy.”

States are not receiving funds to contain the virus speedily enough, said Rahul. “The fight against the coronavirus is on two fronts — medical and economic,’ he pointed out.

He said there will be a shortage of food though there’s plenty of storage in the warehouses. “Give food to the poor and include those as well who do not have ration cards. Create a way for food safety,” he said.

NYAY-like scheme

“Like NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a minimum income guarantee scheme proposed by the Congress before the 2019 election), give money directly to 20 per cent of the poor. Use some other name, if you so like, instead of NYAY,” he added.

Unemployment is on the rise and it is going to get worse, said the Congress MP. Formulate packages for SMEs that can employ people, as well as for big companies, he added.

Suggesting a ‘strategic opening’ after the lockdown, Rahul said the Centre should first open key areas and use testing to identify hotspots. “This is where ramping up testing is important — to dynamically identify the hotspots. Create two basic zones — hotspots and non-hotspots. Use testing to identify hotspots, so you can monitor the minute a zone becomes a hotspot and you can clamp down on it,” he suggested.

Published on April 16, 2020

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