Hyderabad: In an interview, Assam Health Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said that there is no need to wear a mask in Assam in the context of COVID-19.
"What is the need to wear masks. Centre can instruct us (on COVID-19), but in the context of Assam, there is no COVID-19 these days," he said. "What is the need to panic? When there will be (COVID-19 cases), I will tell you to wear (masks) from today."
Several social media users then began sharing the video online. Click here and here to view.
NewsMeter looked at the reported COVID-19 figures for Assam and found that Sarma's comments are highly misleading and ill-informed.
According to the government's website, as of 5 April, 5:13 pm, the state currently has 515 active cases. The overall number of confirmed cases in the state is currently reported at 2,15,445, with the death toll at 1,105.
According to The Sentinel, an English daily newspaper in Guwahati, for the first time in the last two months, the state has recorded more than 60 fresh COVID-19 positive cases in a single day. "Out of 12,322 COVID-19 tests conducted on Friday (April 2) 63 persons tested positive. Even though the COVID-19 positivity rate of the state stood at 0.51 percent, doctors and health workers have warned that there is absolutely no reason to become complacent as the rise of positive cases is slow but steady. More than 30 people in Guwahati have been infected with COVID-19 in the last three days," the report stated.
Although the number of cases is quite low when compared to other states in India, there are still active cases in Assam. This demands wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. COVID-19 restrictions can only be lifted in a country after the active cases turn zero, like in the case of New Zealand and Fiji. Until then, it is advised to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Apart from this, on Monday, the Press Information Bureau of Assam tweeted, "Three rules for safety: Always wear face cover/mask, Maintain distance from others. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water."
Therefore, Sarma's comment is highly misleading.