Super Spreaders? Several Indian Politicians Test Positive For COVID During Polling Season

© REUTERS / AMIT DAVEA healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a passenger as others wait for their turn upon arrival at a railway station during a rapid antigen testing drive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, November 30, 2021.
A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a passenger as others wait for their turn upon arrival at a railway station during a rapid antigen testing drive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, November 30, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.01.2022
With five Indian states set to go to the polls for state assembly elections in the next two or three months, hardly any politician seems to have followed COVID protocols while holding electoral campaigns, despite the federal Health Ministry's warning about a surge in cases.
Delhi state chief Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday morning, 4 January, announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for coronavirus but has mild symptoms. He urged everyone who has contacted him in the past few days to undergo the required test for the pandemic.
Hours after Kejriwal's update, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesman Shehzad Poonawalla called the Delhi state chief to task for campaigning recklessly without a mask in poll-bound states.
On Monday, Kejriwal took part in a rally in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand state, without wearing a mask or following any COVID protocol.
In the past 24-hours, India has recorded 37,379 new COVID-19 cases and 124 deaths. The Omicron tally has reached 1,892 with the highest number of cases coming from the state of Maharashtra.
Earlier on Monday, federal Minister for Heavy Industries, Mahendra Nath Pandey, was also diagnosed with COVID and is at present in hospital.
"I was unwell for the past two days as a result of which I underwent the COVID test and tested positive. All those who have come in contact with me in the past few days are requested to take care of themselves and get the necessary tests done," he tweeted.
Pandey attended an election rally in the state of Uttar Pradesh on 31 December, at which hundreds of thousands of people were present. Later, he complained of fever and chest congestion.
BJP Parliamentarian Manoj Tiwari on Tuesday took to Twitter on 4 January morning to reveal that he has isolated himself after testing positive for a second time since April 2021.
"I was feeling unwell. Because of a mild fever and cold, I could not even go to the Uttarakhand-Rudrapur campaign yesterday. The test result that came today shows I am positive. Taking precaution, I have isolated myself. Please take care of yourself and your family," Tiwari tweeted in Hindi.
He had previously been spotted not following COVID protocol at a public gathering.
In the state of Maharashtra, at least 10 ministers, including the state's deputy chief Ajit Pawar, and 20 legislators, tested positive for COVID-19 on 1 January. All these politicians had attended assembly sessions, parties, and weddings before the new year.
Talking to reporters recently, a parliamentarian from the Shiv Sena party, Sanjay Raut - who last week attended the wedding of the son of colleague Udaysingh Rajput - said that if Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn't wear a mask during rallies or public gatherings, why should other leaders wear it.
"He is the nation's leader. I follow Modi," said Raut.
After the wedding, many politicians tested COVID positive.
The outbreak of COVID cases among politicians is taking place against the backdrop of looming elections in five Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Manipur - which are due to be held in the coming months, and politicians of various parties are attending electoral campaigns despite the coronavirus surge.
On Tuesday, a noted surgeon Dr Arvinder Singh Soin appealed to citizens to wear double masks.
In response to Soin's advice, a Twitter user said: "If only our politicians could hear you".
Last year, India witnessed a massive surge in COVID cases in April and May after political parties continued campaigning for a series of state elections in the states of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, as well as local council elections in some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Telangana states.
India recorded the highest number of daily COVID cases, touching 400,000 a week.
It was only in the last phase of the elections (after 22 April) that restrictions were placed on big public events, limiting political meetings.
Other prominent politicians who have tested positive include Congress parliamentarian Revanth Reddy, West Bengal Minister Aroop Biswas, Karnataka's Primary and Secondary Education Minister Bellur Chandrashekharaia Nagesh, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Derek O'Brien, and parliamentarian Kunwar Danish Ali.
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