With a number of state governments seeking an extension of the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said if the existing conditions prevail, then the curfew would continue in the national capital as well.
In an exclusive interview to CNN-News18, Sisodia said the state and Central governments are fighting as a team and at present, the key is to control the spread of coronavirus, and not indulge in any blame game.
The PM has indicated the lockdown will continue. It will not be lifted at one go. What is the thinking within your government?
If conditions remain as of today, the lockdown will have to continue. We are monitoring each and every case - why someone got affected, scrutinising every house. However, we do not know what will be the condition after seven days. It is difficult to say that.
However, I am sure, as the PM has spoken today with all party heads, he is also in touch with all CMs. The PM will do whatever is in the interest of the country. Our CM and his counterparts in other states will take a decision that is in best interest of the people.
It is difficult to pre-empt a decision seven days in advance. It will depend on whether the graph of cases is going up or coming down
If cases continue to rise, it will be necessary to extend the lockdown?
Absolutely. If cases continue to rise at the speed as it is happening now, there is a necessity for an extension of the lockdown. Now, we have to see what is situation on April 14. In Delhi, the manner in which cases are rising, a majority of them being from the Nizamuddin Markaz... According to evidence, the Markaz cases have spread as much as it could have. All those who had a strong possibility of contracting the disease have been quarantined and suspects, both from the local colony and elsewhere, have been quarantined. We are doing mass testing in local colonies. A lot will depend on the results.
As many as 333 of the total 576 positive cases are from the Markaz. You targeted the Delhi Police. the Ministry of Home Affairs also was monitoring. But were there lapses on the part of the Delhi government as well?
You can keep on looking for lapses. The Delhi government had the responsibility. It took all the harsh steps. In spite of this, many people did not adhere to the rules. The first lapse is from their end. As far as the government is concerned, where were the lapses, who should have done what and so on… What is more important for me is to arrest the spread of coronavirus from Nizamuddin. The government's entire focus is on this. 2,300 people had been evacuated from the Markaz.
Another 300-400 have been traced and 700 more of their contacts. About 3,500 people, related to the Jamaat attendees have been quarantined. Some have tested positive, others have not. We fear that a large number of these 3,500 people will test positive. Our focus is that this should not spread further.
Will the Delhi government order an inquiry into the Markaz episode?
An FIR has already been filed.
So no special investigation to be asked for by Delhi government?
I don’t think that will be necessary. Your interest is whether there will be an investigation. Mine is to arrest the spread of the virus. And then we can look at whether there is a need for a separate inquiry by the Delhi government.
Delhi's figure per day is rising by double digits even without taking the Markaz figures into account. There are two hotspots in Delhi. What will be your strategy regarding these? UP, for instance, has sealed hotspots?
We are looking for more possible hotspots. Hotspot number one, which is Nizamuddin now, rapid testing is being done on a mass scale. There are only two ways to arrest the spread of the virus -- one is total lockdown and second is conducting tests.
Lockdown is successful in Delhi. Police and administration are implementing in together properly. Apart from those involved in essential services, there are few people on the roads. Besides, what other steps need to be taken, we will see.
We are monitoring Dilshad Garden also. We are scrutinising every patient, we are going to each gali, each house -- we are almost locking down the house. We are doing it in every gali.
Quarantining and testing are going on aggressively?
Aggressively and strictly. Every case is being strictly monitored -- our neighbourhoods, galis, etc.
How many cases in all -- in Nizamuddin and Dishad Garden?
We do not know. In Delhi, boundaries of colonies are very fluid -- colonies are continuous, back-to-back, names change. If more people appear, testing has to be increased by manifold.
If more and more cases are found positive, would you still say that there is no community transmission in Delhi?
There is a difference between Stage-2 and Stage-3. Now we have 576 cases. Of these, 333 are from Markaz, 203 are foreign travellers or their contacts. Twenty have been discharged and nine have died. We have the data of each and every person. As long as you have data – who got it from abroad, who got through contacts, then this is not community transmission.
Only when you cannot trace the disease to the cause, then it means it has spread to the community. That will be a very dangerous situation. And many countries are actually in this stage. We should not create unnecessary tension, but we should be alert. If it spreads to the community, it will be difficult to contain this as is being experienced in other countries.
Our effort is to prevent community transmission. If cases pour in, left right and centre, you do not know where they have got the disease from, then it is community spread. That will be a panic situation, hope it does not happen.
Is the Delhi government ready to handle a community transmission?
We are prepared. However, we are also apprehensive. We have stretched Delhi government's resources and made a plan. For up to 30,000 patients a day, we have the capacity to handle. If we need more, we will further stretch our resources.
Many doctors are also contracting the disease. This is a major concern for Delhi. This is happening elsewhere as well. So where is the lapse? How could the doctors have been protected better?
I don't know. This can be spelt out by the doctors. Whatever is being done, it is with the advice of doctors. The kind of kits, testing kits, PPEs, masks they need according to their requirements is being made available. They are putting their lives in danger -- doctors, nurses, safai karmacharis, their assistants, all of them have put their lives at stake. Some of them have contracted it. Doctors are our true soldiers, patriots.
There were joint meetings between LG and CM. They addressed pressers jointly. However, there have been hurdles. Delhi government officers were suspended even without informing the elected government, DTC drivers had to face FIRs, and you had to ask publicly for funds from the central government. Why do you think it is still happening? Is politics still at play?
No. There is a central government and there is a state government. Everyone's effort is here and I am looking at the effort of the central government also. When you work together, there will be glitches, and those glitches will be talked about.
However, for now, all these issues can be put on the backburner. When we need money, we ask, when we need PPE kits, we ask and they are providing... The central and state governments are not separate. They are working as one country, one team against the corona virus. This is the need of the hour and we are doing this.
As of today, how many testing kits and how many PPE kits do you have and how many do you need?
We have sufficient PPE kits for 550 to 575 cases... The numbers that we have now. We have more than necessary. More than the daily demand for the same. As these are consumed, every day, more orders for the same are also materialising.
Desperate people wanted to migrate. There were two fallouts -- one is they were dispossessed, they need shelter and food and the second is when they travel, they have the threat of spreading the disease -- not just within Delhi, but across other states. Do you think Delhi is more vulnerable and could it have been handled in a better way?
Delhi is the national capital. People from across the country and world come here. Definitely, any national capital will be vulnerable. And because this disease has come from abroad, international airport is here, people from Delhi move across the world -- so it is vulnerable.
However, suddenly, in the middle of the lockdown, as people started fleeing, this raises a big question... from Delhi and nearby states, people started heading towards Kaushambi, Ghaziabad bus stop. They felt that buses will be available, but there were no buses plying then. There were lots of rumours on WhatsApp, etc. That was an incident, I feel everyone handled it together.
As on today, in Delhi and nearby districts, all migrants have been contained (in specific areas). Over here, people who had come from neighbouring states, are staying in night shelters. There were many from Sonepat who are staying in night shelters. The solution is to ensure that each person stays where they are.
Could it have been prevented?
I don’t think so. It was beyond control. And we can do a post-mortem on everything, but what is important now is to arrest the spread of coronavirus.