Health Minister C.Vijayabaskar on Monday warned of action against veteran newscaster and actor S. Varadharajen under the Epidemic Diseases Act, after the latter in a video message appealed to the people to stay safe citing the difficulty in finding a hospital bed for a friend with symptoms of COVID-19.

In the video, an emotional Mr. Varadharajen said one of his friends developed severe breathing problems, fever and displayed symptoms of COVID-19 on Sunday. But, he claimed that all hospitals the family contacted said there were no beds. Despite reaching out to senior government officials, they couldn’t get his friend admitted in any hospital, he alleged.

The Health Minister in a press conference slammed his comments and said the government had 75,000 beds across Tamil Nadu and 5,000 in Chennai alone. “We will take action against him under the Epidemic Diseases Act. He has given completely wrong information,” the Minister claimed. “This is a pandemic, a crisis situation and people are panicking. His claims that government and private hospitals do not have enough beds is wrong,” Mr. Vijayabaskar said.

The Minister said all that one had to do if they had symptoms of the disease was to go to a hospital. “There is no need to call them. It is the doctor’s decision on how to treat the patients after taking into account the patients’ willingness. Which government officer did Mr. Varadharajen contact,” he asked.

Mr.Vijayabaskar said he was ready to take Mr. Varadharajen around the hospital wards and show him how hard people were working to save the patients. “We have sufficient facilities. Anyone can make any tall claims,” he charged.

He reiterated that Tamil Nadu had a recovery rate of 56% for a disease for which there was no specific medicine or vaccine. “We have even managed to save near-death cases coming from private hospitals. Even as of now, only six people are on oxygen support. We are also working with private hospitals to increase the number of beds they are setting aside to treat for COVID-19 patients. They are coming forward for it,” he said.

He added there is a view among doctors that cases will go up. “We are ready to tackle that situation as well. Tamil Nadu has the best strategy for treating COVID-19. We have also increased testing. On Sunday, we tested more than 16,000 samples,” he said.

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