Sanjeev Verma / Hindustan Times via Getty Images
India’s parliament reopened on Monday for the first time in nearly six months, but at least 25 lawmakers was stopped from entering the room after being tested positive for coronavirus.
The virus is spreading faster in India than anywhere in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. India has reported nearly 100,000 new infections a day, despite a low per capita testing rate. More than 1,000 deaths a day have also been reported.
Indian lawmakers were asked to be tested for the coronavirus 72 hours before entering parliament on Monday. Among those who were positive and barred from entering, was Meenakshi Lekhi, a national spokesman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi Bharatiya Janata ‘s ruling party, or BJP.
In parliament in New Delhi, lawmakers who tested negative were allowed to take their seats inside the chamber on Monday, but at a social distance. They took every third place and were separated by plexiglass dividers. Everyone wore masks, and some lawmakers also wore face shields.
But many stayed away. out 541 legislators in the lower room, or Lok Sabha, only about 200 attended Monday’s session. Several dozen members sat in a guest gallery above the main room.
There are a total of 785 lawmakers currently serving in India’s bicameral parliament. With 25 of them testing positive before Monday’s session, this is at least a 3% infection rate about 10 times higher than that of the general population. Many lawmakers also tested positive earlier in the pandemic and have since recovered.
Except officially confirmed cases, serological studies I showed than 1 in 4 Indians already have antibodies against coronavirus suggesting that real levels of exposure to the virus may be much higher than the case number indicates.
The Parliament of India convened on Monday for the first time since March 23rd. The session was shortened, with Lok Sabha meeting in the morning, and Rajya Sabha, the upper room, conducting business in the afternoons.
There is much on the agenda of Indian lawmakers: They are expected to debate measures in an effort to save India’s economy and address strained relations with neighboring China.
In the last quarter, India’s economy shrank by almost 24%. An initial blockade, set in late March, trapped hundreds of millions of poor workers in urban centers and industrial areas, leaving many with little to eat. The government eased the blockade in early June and announced $ 260 billion in aid, but that failed to stem economic losses.
Meanwhile, there have been clashes on the India-China border, high in the Himalayas, including a period of bloody, hand-to-hand fighting that left at least 20 Indian troops dead in June. Diplomats from both countries say they are de-escalating and communicating. But there are fears of a full-blown war between the two most populous countries in the world, in a time of multiple crises.
“The parliament session is starting at different times,” Modi told reporters before Monday’s session. “He has a crown and he has a duty.”
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