Karnataka health minister B Sriramulu in an open truck moving through a sea of supporters, the slogan-shouting people showering him with flower petals: A video of a rampant violation of social distancing norms by the health minister is doing the rounds in the state.
The minister had gone to Parashuramapura in Chitradurga for “Bagina”, an annual ritual performed at the Vedthathi river. In the truck, the minister, accompanied by local MLA Thippa Reddy, was seen surrounded by supporters.
The state has recently allowed religious ceremonies as part of relaxation of lockdown curbs, but approved of the safety norms including social distancing and frequent handwashing.
The minister said it was not a “fixed event”.
“I came for river worship. I joined this programme at the behest of the workers. I am constantly appealing to everyone. Follow this rules of social distancing, we have also made guidelines for this,” Mr Sriramulu said. “I have just removed the mask to talk to you. During the programme, I had covered my face with this muffler,” he added.
Karnataka, which so far has 3,408 cases of coronavirus, has been wary of outsiders to contain the spread of the disease in the state.
Earlier, it had banned entry of people from several states and even placed restrictions on incoming flights after the Centre opened up air travel in all major cities last month.
On Sunday, as it announced a number of relaxations in quarantine rules for people coming from other states, it retained Maharashtra – the country’s coronavirus hotspot — as an exception.
People from Maharashtra will have to spend seven days in institutional quarantine, followed by a home quarantine for the same period, Karnataka said. Those from other states were allowed to go into home quarantine if they had no symptoms of infection.
Earlier, a similar video had come from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, where thousands of supporters were seen to have gathered to welcome Chandrababu Naidu as returned to Amravati from Hyderabad after two months.
Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party accused Mr Naidu of violating the lockdown and said he should be in quarantine.