NEW DELHI: The Congress on Sunday said it hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi puts out a comprehensive and holistic plan as regards the exit strategy for the ongoing lockdown and thereafter, and not just talks homilies during his meeting with chief ministers on Monday.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also questioned the government's testing strategy for COVID-19 and wondered why the country was conducting only 39,000 tests a day, against its capacity of one lakh tests.
"Is there an attempt to either play down the magnitude of the problem or is the government unsure that if we go in for enhancing the testing capacity, then it does not have the capacity to deal with its implications?" he asked at a press briefing through video-conferencing.
"We expect that at the meeting of the prime minister with chief ministers on Monday, we do not hear homilies, but see a calibrated, clear, pointed and precise plan that over the next 90 days, what the government of India, states and districts are expected to do to deal with COVID-19," Tewari said.
He said the Congress hopes the prime minister puts out a comprehensive, holistic strategy in dealing with the lockout-exit and the situation for the next three months.
Tewari said till the time there is no national plan to deal with disasters or pandemics, states cannot formulate plans to deal with issues post-lockdown. "It is very important for us to ask the government what is its plan going forth," he added.
"What is the plan over the next one month as we prepare to exit this lockdown in a calibrated manner? It is understandable that when this pandemic started, the government was possibly not aware of its intensity and severity and therefore, was caught unprepared.
"We would like to ask the government and the prime minister that when he meets the chief ministers on Monday, is there a comprehensive, holistic strategy, which the government is going to present to the chief ministers, that this is the plan for the next two months, because on May 3, COVID-19 is not going to disappear," he said.
The Congress leader said that without any vaccine, the virus will remain and "hence, we have to prepare ourselves to live with it". "What is the best strategy, whereby India can cope with this pandemic?" he asked. Tewari noted that initial adhocism is understandable, "but you cannot have a policy, which is adhocism in perpetuity, in order to deal with this pandemic".
He also questioned the government on whether the rate of random-testing was deliberately kept low at 39,000, despite having the capacity of one lakh tests per day. "Why are we not testing to capacity?" he asked.
Tewari said the country has so far carried out 5,79,957 COVID-19 tests, which is way below the global average. "Even our neighbours have conducted more tests and those figures are in the public domain," he noted.
Citing a report that India is left with only three lakh RNA kits, which is the most critical component of the entire testing process, Tewari said, "If we have only three lakh RNA kits and are conducting 39,000 tests a day, it means in a week, we will completely exhaust our capacity to test."
"In other words, India may be without the testing shield, so the government needs to very clearly tell the country that in the last 36 days, how many test kits were imported or domestically manufactured," he added.
He sought to know from the government how these kits were distributed across the states and what was the demand from different states, considering that 60 per cent of the coronavirus cases in the country are coming from 10 of its biggest cities.
The Congress leader also asked about the position with regard to personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, how many of those were manufactured and how many disseminated in the last 36 days.
"What is the position with regard to ventilators, other critical medical infrastructure, even masks, because that is the most critical component of the national strategy. If we have not utilised that time properly, then I am afraid that we are on a very very slippery slope," he said.
Tewari asked the government whether it has a strategy to deal with the migrant workers, who are stuck in quarantine centres at state borders. He said that there has to be a modus operandi to allow these workers to reach home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What is the government doing to facilitate their return home or do we expect that while we sit in the safety of our homes, they will continue to struggle on the streets of India, undertaking brutal marches with their families on foot in order to try and get back to their homes?" he asked.