Passengers at the Prayagraj Railway Station wear masks as a preventive measure for coronavirus, on 16 March 2020 | PTI
Representational image | PTI
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New Delhi: As various state governments continued to impose restrictions on movement and issued shutdowns of schools, colleges and religious places. Prime time was predictably still focused on coronavirus. 

With the latest count of confirmed cases in India crossing the three-digit mark, the tension across channels was palpable.

On India Today, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tried to quell fears while NDTV 24×7 host Vishnu Som questioned why India was unable to test more potential patients? Zee News featured a special segment “Corona fighters ko namaste”, while Republic TV kept its focus on Shaheen Bagh and why protesters must now leave.

Speaking to host Rajdeep Sardesai, Puri assured India Today viewers that he had personally inspected upto 30 airports in the country, and the government was taking ample measures in the segregation and screening of passengers returning from abroad.

However, an unconvinced Sardesai probed him further, questioning him on social media posts that had alleged “substandard” quality and hygiene standards of quarantine centres. Puri, at first, dismissed the validity of things flagged on social media, but then admitted that it was Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s responsibility to monitor quarantine centres. 

On NDTV 24×7, a grim Vishnu Som questioned why India had reportedly only tested approximately 9,200 people for coronavirus — a small fraction of what other countries had tested so far. “Why can’t the government amend the 1986 act that prevents private agencies from testing for COVID-19 after it was declared an emergency?” he asked. 

He also pointed out that currently, people had to line up in long queues at government hospitals to get tested putting themselves at further risk of contracting the virus. He questioned why India couldn’t deploy an army of sample collectors to collect nasal swabs from homes. Wouldn’t that be a sight for sore eyes?

“If India wants to know about the true state of corona, it needs to test, test and test,” he declared.

On ABP News, a reporter went and spoke to the women at Shaheen Bagh, as the anti-CAA protest has continued on despite Delhi government’s orders that no gathering of more than 50 people should take place in light of the  outbreak. “Even if I sit at home, if coronavirus has to infect me it will,” said a young woman named Rizwaana. She bluntly added that she and her fellow women were far more afraid of Modi Sarkar’s CAA, NRC, NPR, as compared to coronavirus, and pointed out that if the government cared about them they would roll back the “kaala kanoon”. Another women said the biggest bimaari was not coronavirus, but NRC & NPR.

Republic TV focused its energy on whether it was ethical of Shaheen Bagh protests to continue or not, and unsurprisingly it turned into a shouting match.

“Feroz, call it off, call it off, call it off”, host Arnab Goswami said to activist Feroze Mithiborwala, saying that the protests put everyone at risk. “We spoke to the police today, we need time to talk to the women,” said Mithiborwala, assuring the panel that they were trying to call off the protest. 

But Goswami, of course, didn’t listen, and proceeded to call the protests a “politically motivated flop show” that “god-knows-who” was paying for. Islamic Scholar Maulana Sayeed Ul Qadri stepped in and said that Goswami had been “exposed”, as it was clear that it was a people’s agitation and had no funding. “You are anti-national to the core, you want coronavirus to spread in the country,” was Goswami’s salty retort.

Unlike other channels, Zee News wanted to paint an inspiring picture of India’s battle with the pandemic — “coronavirus se darna ki nahi, ladne ki zarurat hain” (we need to fight coronavirus and not be afraid of it). Describing how the number of cases had seen a sharp jump in the last 36 hours, host Vishal Kalra said that India had entered an “agneepath”, and we will have to see how its fighters — doctors, nurses, health workers, safai karamcharis — will pass the “agnipariksha”.

Dr. Sumit Dube, former medical officer with Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, played along with Kalra’s optimism and said that he would focus on the good news that India was only in stage two, which meant community spread of coronavirus had not started and was still in the “safe zone”. Transmissions are high, but this is an “aam virus” (common virus) as it had a mortality rate of only 2-3 per cent unlike SARS and other epidemics

Aaj Tak’s ‘Halla Bol’, however, decided to focus on the never ending Congress-BJP drama in Madhya Pradesh. Host Anjana Om Kashyap probed Congress leader Mukesh Nayak on BJP’s

Shivraj Singh Chouhan allegation about  “Rannchodh Kamal Nath, evading the floor test yesterday.

Nayak calmly responded saying, “Thodi jaldi hain unko (BJP) satta mein aane ke” (They are a little too eager to come to power).

The Vidhan Sabha works on laws and procedures, he explained, claiming that these procedures were not being followed as the Congress MLAs who resigned, refused to go to the Assembly and confront the speaker. He also claimed that according to Article 276, resignations had to be voluntary and not induced, and since not one but up to 24 MLAs had resigned, it had to be ascertained whether they were bribed or lured.

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