August 16, 2020

‘Only One Testing Centre in Andamans Appalling’

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has urged prime minister Narendra Modi to take measures  on war footing to protect lives and provide relief to the people of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands from Covid-19 pandemic. He urged the PM to take steps to set up more testing and health centres in the islands. He also sought to provide better internet connectivity in the islands owing to the large distance between them.

In a letter to the prime minister on August 13, Yechury wrote, “All of us are aware of the large distances between the islands of Andaman & Nicobar,” drawing attention to the requirement of more measures to tackle the Covid-19 in the islands.  He called the provision of just one testing centre for all the islands, in Port Blair, amidst growing number of deaths and Covid positive cases as “appalling”.

“The testing conducted here takes eight days for the results to be known, by which time the patient would have moved into a very critical and irretrievable respiratory condition. Eighteen doctors in this Covid hospital have contracted the virus,” he wrote in the letter. He also noted that the Northern Andamans, which is home to half the population of the islands, is far away from Port Blair and takes many days for a patient to reach this Covid hospital.

“Under these conditions, it is absolutely imperative that more Covid testing centres are opened; the time for the results must be reduced by providing facilities on the islands; more health centres capable of treating Covid patients must be established in as many places in the islands as possible and adequate relief to the people, on a war-footing,” he said.

Yechury reminded him of his address to the BJP workers in the union territory wherein he re-announced a high-speed broadband connectivity to the islands. “This was decided by the government of India many years ago and, according to reports, the work on laying the underwater cables from Chennai had already begun. However, any measure to improve the living conditions in the islands is most welcome,” he said.

He said that the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a union territory coming directly under the administrative control of the union home ministry. There are no elected bodies on the islands.  Hence, people have no recourse to appeal for help except to the administration. He urged Narendra Modi to take at least these measures to save the lives of the people and reminded him again that the islands come under direct control of the central government.