New Delhi: The Centre should issue “mandatory” protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and everyone, be it a political party or someone taking out a march, must follow them, the Aam Aadmi Party said on Saturday in a veiled reference to Congress’ ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ led by Rahul Gandhi.
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Addressing a press conference, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) national spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the Centre should issue mandatory protocols to avoid the situation that the country witnessed during the first and second waves of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
The country witnessed a major crisis during the last two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Centre’s failure in understanding the “seriousness” of the initial scientific indications about the spread of the virus, he charged.
“So far as I know, the Centre has not yet issued any mandatory protocols. If such protocols are issued, everyone must show respect to them and follow, be it a political party or someone taking out any yatra,” Mr Chadha told reporters when asked for his party’s stand on the row over Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s “follow COVID-19 guidelines” letter to Rahul Gandhi.
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The AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab suggested that the central government should monitor all the flights coming to India carrying passengers directly or indirectly from China, and if there is need, ban them to prevent entry of the virus into the country.
“Prevention is better than cure,” he added.
A war of words erupted between the Congress and the BJP after the Union health minister wrote to Mr Gandhi earlier this week asking him to consider suspending his party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ if adherence to the Covid protocols cannot be followed.
In a letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday, Mr Mandaviya said three MPs from Rajasthan — PP Chaudhary, Nihal Chand, and Devji Patel — have flagged concerns and requested him that Covid protocols, including use of masks and sanitisers, be strictly followed during the march and only those who are vaccinated be allowed to participate.
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Hitting back, Mr Gandhi on Friday said the ruling party can hold as many public meetings as it wants in the rest of India, but sees Covid only where his Bharat Jodo Yatra is passing through. The former Congress president had earlier accused the government of coming up with “excuses” to stop the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir yatra.
Nothing can prevent the Bharat Jodo Yatra from moving forward, the Congress asserted, asking the BJP to “stop playing politics in the garb of the Covid pandemic” and trying to “stall” the march, which entered the national capital on Saturday morning.