New Delhi: Joint Secretary in the health ministry Lav Agarwal, who addressed daily media briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak when it was picking up pace in the country, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The 48-year-old tweeted that he will be isolating at home.
Dear All,Just to inform that I have tested positive for Covid 19 and initiating home isolation as per guidelines. Requesting all my friends, colleagues for self monitoring. Contact tracing will be done by Health Team. Hoping to see everyone soon.
— lavagarwal (@lavagarwal) August 14, 2020
A 1996-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, Agarwal was the central government’s official spokesperson at the national media briefings on the COVID-19 situation in the country throughout April and May.
The briefings were first held daily and were open to journalists of all media outlets.
Gradually, they became sporadic as India’s COVID-19 numbers and growth rates grew. Restrictions were also placed on questions from the media, with several reports alleging that the panel only took questions from news agency ANI and the public service broadcaster DD.
Agarwal’s role in the briefings had come under the spotlight especially as he, in his addresses, had repeatedly sought to highlight the role of the Tablighi Jamaat in the initial spread of the coronavirus in India, despite his own ministry’s guidelines against stigmatisation of a particular sect or person over carrying COVID-19.
In his briefings, Agarwal had also focused on the comparatively ‘low fatality rate’ in India, which most experts feel is neither an indicator of suitable handling of the crisis, nor a reflection that it has not spread.
Health ministry media briefings are now addressed by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. Agarwal is also present at them.
Agarwal had also been part of the Central teams that had been constituted to look into containment measures in states with high coronavirus caseloads, reported Hindustan Times.