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At least 17 Indian MPs infected with coronavirus as cases close to five million

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) – At least 17 members of the Indian parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus, government officials said on Tuesday, noting the growing spread of infections set to exceed five million cases soon.

A health care worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes swabs from a farmer in a field, amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the village of Kavitha in the western state of Gujarat, India, September 15, 2020. REUTERS / Amit Dejv

Lawmakers were reviewed ahead of parliament reopening on Monday after six months. Deputies cleared of evidence wore masks, occupied glass-enclosed seats and worked truncated hours.

Twelve of the 17 infected MPs were from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, according to a government official who had a list of lawmakers. All 17 were members of the 545-member lower house of parliament.

One of them, Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP MP, said she was doing well.

After the routine parliamentary test for the COVID and genome test, it confirmed that I have tested positive for the virus. I am now in good health and mental condition, she said in a tweet.

It was not immediately known how many members from the 245-member upper house of parliament, known as Rajya Sabha, had turned out positive.

Lekhi, a spokeswoman for BJP, is the latest in a string of politicians to be infected with the coronavirus, their highest profile being Interior Minister Amit Shah, who spent most of August in hospital after being diagnosed with COVID. 19

Shah, a close aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was hospitalized again over the weekend for a routine health check-up, the hospital said. He has not yet participated in parliament.

The government is doing everything it can to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said Tuesday in the upper house of parliament, as he asked members for their support in raising awareness.

The battle for COVID is never over, Vardhan said in his upstairs speech.

Cases in India have risen and the country reported 83,809 new coronavirus infections for the lowest daily jump in a week, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The second most populous nation in the world looked like it would pass on Wednesday in 5 million cases, as its number of 4.93 million is only 70,000 short.

India, where cases have risen faster than any other nation, remains just the United States in terms of the number of total infections.

The death toll exceeded 80,000 on Tuesday, rising by 1,054 in the last 24 hours, the ministry added.

Written by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Ed Osmond

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