Former television newsreader and theatre artiste S Varadharajan, better known as ‘TV’ Varadharajan, recently put out a video statement in which he shared a personal, second-hand experience and said that there were no beds available in Chennai to treat COVID-19 patients.
After the video went viral, Tamil Nadu Health and Family Welfare Minister C Vijayabhaskar during his press meet on Monday condemned Varadharajan’s statement and said that action would be taken against him as per the Pandemic Act (The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897).
“Varadharajan has spread false news at this time when we have a major disaster. As per the Pandemic Act we will take action. What he has done is a big mistake because during the time of a crisis, people are in a state of panic. Therefore, such a statement is wrong and needs to be condemned. The state government has continually been doing all it can during this pandemic,” the Minister said.
In his video, which seems to have been shot at home, Varadharajan begins by sharing an incident that had happened to a close family friend who had developed COVID-19 symptoms all of a sudden.
“No hospitals in Chennai – the big hospitals, government hospitals – none of them had beds. All of them informed my friend’s family that they cannot admit a new patient for lack of beds,” he says, adding that despite using influence they were unable to find beds. “We spoke to the hospital owner, Chairman, Managing Director… we spoke to everyone. Nobody could help us. They are very frank. It is true that there are no beds available,” he says.
However, following the Minister’s statement, support came in for Varadharajan on social media from people who had allegedly gone through similar experiences in recent times.
What Varadarajan said should be treated as awareness video!! I don't see anything wrong in what he said!!! Government pls analyse things before doing something— Only For Thala (@OnlyForThala1) June 8, 2020
Now this #Varadharajan is threatened.— dev shak (@devashak) June 8, 2020
And I heard from a friend he bats for the government.
What a shameful act #Edapadi govt.
They should ensure proper beds are in place for #Corona patients.
Not shoot the messenger
Last few weeks complete shambolic treatment of crisis by govt. https://t.co/feOhtB7tFO
Why can’t facts be checked with Mr. Varadarajan for helping out rather than being harsh? In the video message too Mr. Varadarajan requests only to take all precautions while going out and avoid venturing out unless it is absolutely necessary!— Thanthoni Kanchi (@AmmaThanthoni) June 8, 2020
இரண்டு நாள் முன்பு எனக்கு தெரிந்த ஒரு அம்மையாரும் மருத்துவமனை தேடி அல்லாடிக்கொண்டிருந்தார். அரசு மருத்துவமனையில் இடமில்லையா இல்லை அவர் நாடவில்லையா ? தெரியவில்லை. எதுவாகினும் இனி அவர் எந்த தவறான தகவலும் பரப்ப வாய்ப்பு இல்லை. @Vijayabaskarofl அம்பை நோவானேன்? https://t.co/RGCTjpCPcB— Kasturi Shankar (@KasthuriShankar) June 8, 2020
Varadharajan also repeatedly requested people to stay indoors and stressed that one should step out only if absolutely necessary. “Do not be over-confident thinking that you will not get coronavirus. Do not head out without a valid reason,” he says in the video.
Refuting what Varadharajan said in the video, Minister Vijayabhaskar said during his press meet, “There are about 5,000 beds available for COVID-19 treatment in Chennai government hospitals alone. All over Tamil Nadu, there are about 75,000 beds. Private hospitals have limited beds but they are increasing the number based on our request. We will be launching the number of beds available, ventilators, etc. available soon online.”
A day after he put out this video Varadharajan updated another video message in which he appreciated the government for all its efforts and also shared that his friend had been admitted to a hospital and was being treated. "The video that I shared on WhatsApp has spread like wildfire. State and Union government has been working full-fledged. Doctors, nurses, sanitary workers, police have been working selflessly. Why? For our welfare. It is our responsibility to cooperate," he said.