At least 17 members of the Indian parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus, government officials said on Tuesday, underlining the widening spread of infections set to cross five million cases soon.
The lawmakers were screened ahead of the reopening of parliament on Monday after six months. MPs cleared by the tests wore masks, occupied seats with glass enclosures and worked for shorter hours.
Twelve of the 17 infected MPs were from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a government official who had a list of the politicians. All 17 were members of the 545-member lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha.
One of them, Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP member, said she was doing fine.
“After the routine parliament test for COVID & genome test it’s confirmed that I have tested positive for the virus. I am currently in good health & spirits,” she said in a tweet.
It was not immediately known how many members from the 245-strong upper house of parliament, known as the Rajya Sabha, had tested positive.
Lekhi, a spokeswoman for the BJP, is the latest in a string of politicians infected with the coronavirus, the most high-profile of them being Home Minister Amit Shah, who spent most of August in hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was admitted to hospital again over the weekend for a routine health check-up, the hospital said. He has not yet attended parliament.
Death toll crosses 80,000
The government is doing all it can to contain the spread of the coronavirus, federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the upper house on Tuesday, while asking members for their support in increasing awareness.
“The battle for COVID is far from over,” Vardhan said in his speech to the parliament.
Cases in India have been surging and the country reported 83,809 new coronavirus infections for its lowest daily jump in a week, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The world’s second-most populous nation appeared to be on course to cross the milestone of five million cases on Wednesday, as its tally of 4.93 million is just 70,000 short.
India, where cases have been rising faster than any other nation, lags only behind the United States in terms of its number of total infections.
The death toll crossed 80,000 on Tuesday, an increase of 1,054 in the last 24 hours, the ministry added.