Fact-check: Did WHO Really Praise UP Govt For COVID Testing?
While state govt and media outlets claim it was a praise, WHO merely highlights its own ground work
After the World Health Organization released an article titled 'Uttar Pradesh Going the Last mile to Stop COVID-19' on May 7, 2021, several media outlets and the Uttar Pradesh government claimed that WHO praised the state government for its door-to-door COVID-19 surveillance campaign.
But WHO, in the article, merely speaks of its role in the programme. While all assumed that the health agency patted the state's back for carrying out the 'trace, test, track, treat' campaign, WHO spokesperson told FactChecker that "surveillance and monitoring are among key WHO roles" across the country.
After the May 7 article, WHO shared a tweet thread on May 10 showing its own ground work where it "supported" the UP government by deploying "field officers on the ground to monitor and share real-time feedback with the government for immediate corrective action to ensure quality".
In #India's 🇮🇳 most populous state Uttar Pradesh, the state gov. has initiated house-to-house active case finding of #COVID19 in rural areas to contain transmission by testing people with symptoms for rapid isolation, disease management & contact tracing— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 10, 2021
Barrage of claims
This was followed by media outlets and the UP government and several of its officials repeatedly touting WHO's article as a "praise" for the UP government for carrying out the campaign in rural areas. Here are all these claims:
WHO praises UP's door-to-door Covid testing in villages https://t.co/WqGmCq2ovI— TOI Lucknow News (@TOILucknow) May 11, 2021
Other such articles include, Zee News' story titled 'WHO praises Yogi government's work against Coronavirus', The Pioneer's article called 'WHO praises UP govt for 'trace, test and treat' policy in rural areas' and OpIndia also brought out a similar piece.
The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's office also tweeted how the global health body praised the government's efforts.
देश के सबसे बड़े आबादी वाले राज्य उत्तर प्रदेश में कोरोना संक्रमण से निपटने के लिए @UPGovt द्वारा उठाए जा रहे कदमों की @WHO ने सराहना की है।— CM Office, GoUP (@CMOfficeUP) May 12, 2021
WHO की टीम ने खुद गांवों में पहुंचकर कोविड मैनेजमेंट को देखकर प्रदेश सरकार की तारीफ की है। pic.twitter.com/5QsBUnaLfm
Responding to WHO's tweet thread, Shishir Singh, Director Information & Public Relations of the UP government, said the WHO acknowledged the 'strategy' of the government
BJP National Secretary Y Satyakumar also made a similar claim in a tweet:
✅UP govt's 'Test,Trace,Treat' strategy to fight covid at village level lauded by @WHO— Y. Satya Kumar (@satyakumar_y) May 12, 2021
✅Atal Bihari Vajpayee covid hospital built in Lucknow jointly by @UPGovt & @DRDO_India
✅Covid hospital jointly built by @UPGovt
✅300 oxygen plants being set up in UP#UPWithYogiJi pic.twitter.com/lHtFcVBRz2
Moreover, on May 10, the state government, in a press note shared with local journalists that FactChecker has access to, said, "With the aim of breaking the chain of Corona infection and keeping villages safe from Corona, a large trace, test, track and treat campaign is currently being conducted in more than 97,000 revenue villages. This campaign is getting positive results. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also praised our campaign today."
Further, during a press briefing on the UP government's official YouTube channel, Navneet Sehgal, Additional Chief Secretary of the Information Department of UP, said the WHO had praised and acknowledged the efforts of the UP government's campaign against COVID-19. FactChecker also wrote to Sehgal and called him asking for a comment but received no response. We will update the story if and when he replies.
However, this is mainly to showcase WHO's own ground work which they had initiated for eradicating polio and which is being repeated for COVID-19. Although WHO acknowledges the UP government's assistance in this campaign, it does not say that it's the government's strategy.
"Surveillance and monitoring are among key WHO roles in the field across the country. WHO has a bigger team of medical officers and field monitors in Uttar Pradesh for several years now. The team was established to support the polio eradication programme," WHO said in a statement.
In WHO's response, the agency highlighted its efforts in previous vaccination programmes held in the state. "House-to-house monitoring was one of the key initiatives undertaken to identify children who missed vaccination that helped in improving vaccination coverage. This initiative is among the best practices and has been replicated for Routine Immunization and now for active case finding in the pandemic. This initiative was undertaken in two phases in Uttar Pradesh last year and is being repeated now," read the statement.
The May 7 article also stated that the government teams have been moving across 97,942 villages covering all the 75 districts in UP, which is the most populous (230 million) state in the country, from May 5 to May 10, 2021. For this campaign, the state government has deployed 1,41,610 teams and 21,242 supervisors from the state health department to ensure all rural areas are covered.
"WHO, which supported the Uttar Pradesh government in training and micro planning for the activity, now has field officers on the ground to monitor and share real-time feedback with the government for immediate corrective action to ensure quality…" the article read.
While underlining its efforts, WHO said on the inaugural day the agency's field officers monitored over 2,000 government teams and visited at least 10,000 households. WHO has also stated that they will provide support and guidance till the completion and compilation of the final report.
On May 1, 2021, there were 3,01,833 active COVID-19 cases and a cumulative total of 12,874 deaths in the state, according to data from COVID19INDIA. As on May 14, 2021, UP had reported 1,93,815 active cases and a 31% increase (16,957) in total COVID-19 deaths.