"What is the need to wear masks. Centre can instruct us (on COVID-19), but in the context of Assam, there is no COVID these days," said Assam health minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, while speaking to Lallantop editor Saurabh Dwivedi on Saturday.
Upon being asked by Dwivedi whether wearing masks is required, Sarma responds saying, "What is the need to panic. When there will be (COVID-19 cases), I will tell you to that wear (masks) from today." Sarma further stresses that the economy has to be revived, and asks Dwivedi how the beauty parlours will run if people are wearing masks.
You can watch the full interview here.
Sarma's comments have stirred a controversy in the state and around the country, especially with India experiencing a second wave of infections, with 30,000 to 60,000 cases being recorded daily across the country.
However, even if we look at the reported figures in the context of Assam, Sarma's comments would seem highly misleading and ill-informed. Let us take a closer look at the figures to know why.
Assam COVID-19 Numbers Are Not Negligible
While the overall COVID-19 figures in Assam are nowhere near the highest or the most concerning in India (as opposed to states like Maharashtra), they are not negligible.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the state currently has 1945 active cases, with an increase of 36 cases between April 3 and April 4. It should also be noted that Assam's Health Ministry reports a different number for active cases, according to their website the figure lies at 515 cases.
The overall number of confirmed cases in the state is currently reported at 215549, with the death toll currently 1107. In the past week, there have been 16-36 fresh cases reported in the state on a daily basis.
While still comparatively low, the fact remains that there are still a number of active cases in Assam - whether it be 1945 or 515 - that still demands the wearing of masks and maintaining of social distancing.
Despite that, in the political rallies in states going to polls - like Assam, we have seen the exact opposite.
Conditions For Lifting COVID-19 Practices And Restrictions
When can a country lift its COVID-19 restrictions completely, including the mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing?
Last year, New Zealand and Fiji lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions, only after the countries' active COVID-19 cases fell to zero. If we are to take their example, we can advice people to stop wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, only when there are no more COVID-19 cases left in the country.
In that regards, Assam's 1945 active cases (or 515 cases, if the state government's figure is to be followed) would still require the wearing of masks and maintaining of social distancing in not only the state, but the entire country.
In fact, just today itself the Prime Minister's Office published a review of the COVID-19 situation in India, that emphasised on wearing of mask and maintaining of social distancing and stated a lack in compliance of such practices as one of the reasons for the recently rising numbers.
Therefore, Sarma's comment is highly misleading.
Updated On: 2021-04-10T10:04:25+05:30
Claim Review : There is no COVID-19 in Assam these days.
Claimed By : Himanta Biswa Sarma
Fact Check : False