The threat of coronavirus infection reached Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament on Friday, with BJP MP Dushyant Singh announcing he was self-quarantining himself after attending a party in Lucknow where a Bollywood singer who later tested positive was also there. Two other MPs, Anupriya Patel and Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien, who came in touch with him, have gone into self-isolation.
An MP from Rajasthan, Dushyant was present at a party thrown by a nephew of former MP Akbar Ahmad Dumpy in Lucknow on March 15, also attended by singer Kanika Kapoor, along with his mother and former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Kanika flew back from London a few days ago and tested positive on Friday, four days after the Lucknow party.
On Friday night, the Lucknow police registered an FIR against Kanika under sections dealing with disobedience to orders promulgated by a public servant, and acts likely to spread disease dangerous to life.
Dushyant, who has not been tested, was attending Parliament till Friday, and mingled with other parliamentarians in Central Hall as well as attended Standing Committee meetings. On Thursday, he was among the invitees to a breakfast for Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh MPs hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind. Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Mahendra Singh Pandey were among those present at the breakfast.
Sources said Dushyant Singh was also part of a private dinner hosted by an MP, in which a number of other young parliamentarians, including a junior minister, were present.
While Kovind appeared to have not come in close contact with any of the guests, sources said Rashtrapati Bhavan was looking at the medical protocols to be followed.
In Uttar Pradesh, state Minister of Medical Health & Family Welfare Jai Pratap Singh, who was also present at Kanika’s party, went into self-isolation, as did three MLAs who were recently in contact with him.
There was no confirmation on whether officials are trying to trace whom all Dushyant had come in contact with since March 15.
Raje announced on Twitter that she and Dushyant were going into self-quarantine. “While in Lucknow, I attended a dinner with my son Dushyant & his in-laws. Kanika, who has unfortunately tested positive for #Covid19 was also a guest. As a matter of abundant caution, my son & I have immediately self-quarantined and we’re taking all necessary precautions,” she tweeted.
Anupriya Patel, who attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture along with Dushyant, tweeted, “I was present at an event yesterday. Associate Member of Parliament Mr Dushyant Singh was also present at the event. As a precaution, I am going to self isolation. I will follow the necessary guidelines by the government.”
O’Brien, who was seated next to Dushyant at the meeting, tweeted, “Am on self-isolation and following all protocol, as I was sitting right next to MP Dushyant for two hours at a #Parliament meeting on March 18.”
Newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda said he had also gone into self-isolation after coming in contact with Dushyant at Parliament House on Wednesday.
Dushyant is believed to have come in touch with a number of mediapersons on Parliament premises as well.
Kanika, who sang the hit Bollywood single Baby Doll, flew back to Mumbai from London on March 9, and two days later, went to home town Lucknow. The family has claimed the 41-year-old was screened when she landed in India and allegations that she had dodged check-up were baseless.
Apart from her, three family members of an infected junior resident doctor at Lucknow’s King George Medical University tested positive on Friday, taking the total number of cases in Uttar Pradesh to 23. Eight have recovered.
Talking to The Indian Express, Minister Jai Pratap Singh said the party had been hosted by Dumpy’s nephew and that he didn’t meet Kanika there. “Vaundharaji, her son and other family members, my wife and sisters were all present. Several other prominent persons from Lucknow also attended. However, we didn’t know Kanika personally and did not meet her. As of now we are all asymptomatic, and have gone into self-isolation. Only if we have symptoms will our samples be taken for testing.”
During the period under watch, Singh held a press conference in Gautam Buddh Nagar district, which was attended by Jewar MLA Dhirendra Singh, Noida MLA Pankaj Singh, Dadri MLA Tejinder Nagar, and the District Magistrate and Chief Medical Officer, among others. The three MLAs have gone into self-quarantine.
CMO Dr Anurag Bhargava said, “No advisory of self-quarantine has been issued to mediapersons yet since they were sitting away from the minister. The officials who were present are taking every precaution. No need to panic as of now.”
Uttar Pradesh Surveillance Officer Vikasendu Agarwal said 68 contacts of Kanika had been traced and the process would continue.
Lucknow airport Director A K Sharma denied any lapse on their part, pointing out that there was no directive to screen domestic passengers. “In Lucknow, there is no direct flight from London. She had flown into Mumbai and from there to Lucknow. The responsibility to test her was of the airport she landed first in India, so I cannot comment on that. However, she is claiming that she was screened.”
BMC officials who are screening passengers at Mumbai airport said they had been doing thermal screening of passengers flying in from abroad since March 9, plus making them fill a form detailing the countries they had travelled to, and if they had any symptoms. Those who showed symptoms were moved to isolation facilities, and others asked to undertake home quarantine for 14 days.
In a statement, Kanika’s father Rajiv Kapoor said, “Kanika came to India late March 9 and, after staying for a day in Mumbai, reached Lucknow on March 11. Since then she has been in Lucknow. Two days ago, she developed mild fever and cough. So we requested doctors to test her. Friday morning we came to know she is positive. Doctors have advised isolation for at least four-five days, after which she will be tested again. There is no panic or worry.”
Kapoor acknowledged that Kanika also attended at least three “small family Holi gatherings” after arrival in Lucknow, on March 13, 14 and 15, as she had no symptoms. “Around 300 people might have come in contact with her. We have conveyed the information to everyone. In my family, other than Kanika, there is my wife, my mother and two domestic helps. We are all being tested.”
Sources said the singer also paid a brief visit to an uncle in Kanpur, for a small function with 50-odd people. Health Department sources contact-tracing is also being carried out in the vicinity of the Kanpur residence.
Neighbours expressed concerns over customers visiting a showroom run by the parents who may contracted the virus.
In an Instagram post Friday, Kanika said, “For the past 4 days I have had signs of flu, I got myself tested and it came positive for Covid-19. My family and I are in complete quarantine now and following medical advice on how to move forward. Contact mapping of people I have been in touch with is underway as well. I was scanned at the airport as per normal procedure 10 days ago when I came back home, the symptoms have developed only 4 days ago. At this stage I would like to urge you all to practice self-isolation and get tested if you have the signs. I am feeling ok, like a normal flu and a mild fever, however we need to be sensible citizens at this time and think of all around us.”
The development is likely to increase pressure on the government to adjourn the Parliament session, which the Opposition has been demanding. Addressing BJP MPs earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the House would function till April 3, as scheduled.
Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram, who has been demanding that Parliament be shut, told The Indian Express, “My worst fears have come true.”
To reassure the House, Speaker Om Birla conducted an inspection of measures at Parliament House Estate. Sources said the premises would be disinfected on Saturday and Sunday.
(— with inputs from Amil Bhatnagar in Delhi)
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