“Why create unnecessary panic? When there is COVID I will tell the people to start wearing masks,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s Health Minister and BJP leader in an interview with The Lallantop. 

Amid ongoing Legislative elections in Assam, Lallantop’s Saurabh Dwivedi asked Sarma, “On one side so much strictness and there is no need to wear masks. Why?” To this Sarma said, “No, there is no need. If there is no need, what can I do? The Central government can instruct, but in the context of Assam, COVID is not present today.”

Dwivedi goes on to ask, “So there is no need to wear a mask?” to which Sarma responds, “Why create unnecessary panic. When there is covid I will tell the public to start wearing masks. Right now we need to revive the economy. If we wear masks, then how will parlours run? Beauty parlours also need to run. So now when covid happens, I already told people, this is an interim relief. The day I know there is covid, you all will have to wear masks, otherwise Rs 500 fine.” 

The Lallantop further reported that Sarma said once cases rise above 1,000 he will hold a press conference and ask the public to start wearing masks. 

National President of Youth Wing of Indian National Congress, Srinivas BV, tweeted a 49-second video clip from The Lallantop interview with Sarma. 

Other users including Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi also tweeted Sarma’s video.

Fact Check/Verification

India is likely witnessing its second wave with active COVID-19 cases surging in multiple states. At the epicentre is Maharashtra with 4,31,896 active cases, followed by Karnataka (39,111 cases) and Chhattisgarh (38,450 cases) as on 5 April. 

Maharashtra has announced weekend lockdowns, while Karnataka has placed strict restrictions in the state. 

Amid this, Assam’s health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claims that there aren’t any COVID-19 cases in the state at present. 

As per the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Assam’s COVID-19 active case count is 1,964 as on 08:00 on 5 April. A total of 2,15,597 patients have recovered/ been discharged or migrated, while the state has lost 1,109 lives to the novel coronavirus disease so far. 

Screenshot of COVID-19 Statewise Status as on Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

On the other hand, Assam’s COVID-19 dashboard reflects the active case count as 515 as on 3.20 pm, 5 April. 

Screenshot of the Assam COVID-19 Dashboard

While the novel coronavirus situation is not as dire in Assam as in other parts of India, it is misleading to say that the disease is not present in the state at all. 

Please note the discrepancy in case counts on the Central and state (Assam) website.

Conclusion

Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s claim on “no COVID in Assam” is misleading. Active case numbers on the Central and State (Assam) government websites suggests otherwise. 

Result: Misleading 

Our Sources

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/

Assam’s COVID-19 dashboard: https://covid19.assam.gov.in/

This story was originally published by Newschecker.in.

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