Bengaluru: With more than 40 legislators across parties testing positive for Covid-19 in Karnataka so far, authorities and epidemiologists have warned that those in public life should be more cautious, or they could turn into “super spreaders”.
At least six ministers in B.S. Yediyurappa’s cabinet, including the CM himself, have been infected by the virus. Other members of the legislative assembly and council have also tested positive, as have more than 30 panchayat and city corporators, according to government sources. In all, Karnataka has reported 3,27,076 Covid-19 cases as of 29 August, 86,446 of which are currently active. The number of deaths in the state is 5,483.
Those who have been infected by Covid-19 include high-profile leaders such as Karnataka Health Minister B. Sriramulu, Tourism and Culture Minister C.T. Ravi, Forests Minister Anand Singh, opposition leader Siddaramaiah and his MLA son Dr Yathindra, as well as Karnataka Congress chief D.K. Shivakumar and JD(S) MLA H.D. Revanna, the elder son of former PM H.D. Deve Gowda.
A senior health department official said most of these politicians tested positive after attending public functions, and in several instances, the leaders and the public have been callous in their attitude towards Covid-19 protocols.
“Crowding around without maintaining social distance or wearing masks makes politicians more vulnerable. After the lifting of the lockdowns, complacency has set in and people don’t realise they could turn super spreaders if they don’t take care,” said the official, who did not want to be named.
‘Ensure sustained use of masks’
Dr Giridhar R. Babu, the Public Health Foundation of India’s head of life course epidemiology, told ThePrint said politicians are more vulnerable to the infection due to interacting with the public, and attending meetings in open as well as closed spaces — the latter of which could trigger a spread.
“It is inevitable that politicians have to meet the public and attend many meetings as part of their responsibilities. It is well known that one has to avoid closed spaces, close contact settings and crowds for preventing the spread of novel coronavirus. However, most of these meetings by political leaders are conducted in closed spaces with many people trying to meet the leaders, thereby increasing the contact,” Babu said.
“There is also a tendency to take off the masks while speaking. It is also possible that many people think that it may be rude to wear it among the people they know, or when their beloved leader is around,” he pointed out.
“Under such circumstances, the probability of getting infected increases. It is most important to ensure sustained use of masks is followed by all public representatives, irrespective of the circumstances. Also, it is important to frequently wash hands and maintain distancing as much as possible,” Babu advised.
The health department official quoted above added: “When interacting with people, politicians should avoid removing masks or keeping them on their chins. Masks should be worn under all circumstances, even if it may feel awkward while speaking. It is for increased safety, especially if you are a public servant.”
Karnataka Medical Education Minister Dr K. Sudharkar, who is also part of the state’s pandemic management core group, stressed that it is not only about ensuring that one stays safe, but also that others do not get infected as well.
“Legislators and those in public life are more vulnerable due to their constant exposure. They are compelled to go out as it is part of their duty, but I request them to take utmost precautions,” Sudhakar said.
His cabinet colleague C.T. Ravi, who has now recovered from Covid, said: “I don’t let anybody without a mask meet or speak to me. I am firm about following protocols; people will follow it when you do.”
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