Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday claimed that the government’s own sero survey indicated that the second wave of coronavirus was imminent but the Centre ignored it, reported ANI.

According to the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, serology tests are “those that look for antibodies in blood”. “If antibodies are found, that means there has been a previous infection,” it says. “However, there is a chance a positive result means that you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.”

Serological surveys reveal how many people may have been infected with the novel coronavirus in an area but they do not show how many people are immune to the virus. It still isn’t clear how long antibodies last in infected persons and how many antibodies are needed to protect a person from reinfection.

In an interview to ANI, she asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why the government did not make any arrangements when the second wave of the pandemic was inevitable. “The country is facing a shortage of oxygen because there was no strategy, this is the government’s failure and bad planning,” she said.

Vadra asked why was there a shortage of oxygen when India’s capacity to produce it is one of the highest in the world. “How tragic it is that oxygen is available but it’s not reaching where it should,” she told ANI.

The Congress leader said that India produces 7,500 metric tons of oxygen per day, according to PTI. She said that at the peak of the first wave, the cumulative use of oxygen in hospitals was less than half of this quantity.

The Congress leader also raised questions on the shortage of antiviral drug remdesivir, saying that 1.1 million (11 lakh) injections were exported in the last six months.

“The government exported 6 crore vaccines between January-March,” she said. “During this time 3-4 crore Indians were vaccinated. Why were Indians not prioritised? Vaccine shortage is due to bad planning, remdesivir shortage is due to no planning, oxygen shortage due to no strategy. It’s [the] government’s failure.”

In another interview to PTI, Vadra asked why free vaccines were not being given to citizens between the age of 18 and 45. “The new variants are supposedly even more virulent and many young people are affected,” she said. “And why is the government allowing middlemen into the equation without price controls?”

Under the third phase of the inoculation drive, vaccine manufacturers can sell half their supply to state governments and the private hospitals. The Centre said it will provide vaccines free of cost for only the first 30 crore vulnerable persons. After that, vaccines will not be subsidised as they are being at present.

Her comments came as several states are reporting shortages of oxygen supply, medicines. On Wednesday, India reported 2.95 lakh new cases and 2,023 deaths in the last 24 hours. This is an unprecedented figure since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The country now has 1,56,16,130 cases and the toll rose to 1,82,553. The country has recorded over 2 lakh coronavirus infections for the seventh consecutive day.

‘Why did the Centre not ramp up Covid-19 testing?’

The Congress leader asked why the government did not ramp up coronavirus testing across the country. Vadra also alleged that the government was conducting more rapid antigen tests to show lower figure of citizens testing positive.

“Even today reports are coming that private labs are being told to stop the testing,” she said. “Why?What is important – people’s lives or your numbers and the image of your government?”

On Uttar Pradesh, Vadra said that the state’s sero survey in October-November showed that five crore people have been infected with the virus. “Ramping up of testing was recommended,” she told ANI. “[The] Uttar Pradesh government started 70% antigen tests which means only 30% RT-PCR test is being done.”

Government should listen to Manmohan Singh’s advice, says Vadra

Vadra also said that the Narendra Modi government should listen to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s advice with the same dignity with which it was offered. Singh had written a letter to Modi on Sunday, suggesting that ramping up India’s vaccination programme was pertinent to tackle to coronavirus crisis. He had made five suggestions regarding this.

In response, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said that history would be kinder to him if his own party, the Congress, followed his advice.

On Wednesday, Vadra asked who will raise their voices if not the Opposition leaders. “This government can speak to [Pakistan’s] Inter-Services Intelligence,” she said. “They are speaking to ISI in Dubai. Can’t they talk to Opposition leaders? I don’t think there is any Opposition leader who is not giving them constructive and positive suggestions.”

The Congress leader said that the prime minister has to cooperate with the public and the Opposition to fight the pandemic. “Prime Minister should stop his public relation exercise and talk to the people and opposition parties over the crisis of Covid-19,” she added.

‘BJP leaders laughing at rallies as people die in country’

Vadra criticised the Centre for holding election rallies in West Bengal even as coronavirus cases are rising at an alarming speed. “Even today they’re [BJP leaders] busy with campaigning,” she said. “They are laughing from the stages [at rallies]. People are crying, screaming for help, seeking oxygen, beds, medicines, and you’re going to huge rallies and laughing. How can you?”

Various political parties have cancelled rallies in view of the worsening coronavirus situation. On Sunday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she will not campaign in Kolkata anymore. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on April 14 said it will not hold any more big election rallies for the remaining three phases. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also cancelled all his rallies in the state.

Following the criticism, the BJP on Monday said the party will no longer hold large election rallies in West Bengal.

The party said that it has been decided that only small public meetings with not more than 500 people will be held for the leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Union ministers. All these meetings will be held in open spaces following all Covid-related protocols and guidelines, the BJP added.