The union health ministry last night called out India Today for running a “fake” and “incorrect” report on the Kumbh Mela congregation in Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
The ministry took exception to the report’s headline claiming the central government had described the congregation as “a super-spreader event”. The report was based on an ANI news alert quoting NITI Ayog member Dr VK Paul as saying he hoped the standard operating procedure was being followed at the Kumbh Mela, on being questioned if it could become a super-spreader of Covid.
In another on Monday, ANI had quoted a “top source in the government” as saying that at a meeting on the Covid situation a senior official had expressed their concern about the religious congregation potentially becoming a super-spreader. In the same report, the news agency also quoted union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan as saying, “As the super spreader events are concerned, the union government almost a month ago issued an SOP, specifically for practices to be adopted in Kumbh and had a long meeting with the state government's officers." He added that the duration of the event had been cut to one month from the usual three and a half to four months.
While and reported, on the authority of ANI’s “top government source” that there were concerns that the congregation “might” become a super-spreader of Covid, India Today seemingly took it to mean the central government had said it was already becoming a super-spreader, prompting a sharp response from the health ministry. The news outlet later its report.