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Monday, August 10, 2020

Punjab: First Cabinet minister tests positive, ex-Bishop Mulakkal too contracts Covid-19

Mulakkal, who was granted bail in 2018, is accused of raping a nun belonging to the order of Missionaries of Jesus several times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kottayam district in Kerala.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ludhiana | Updated: July 15, 2020 1:07:07 am
Franco Mulakkal, kerala bishop rape case, kerala nun rape case, coronavirus bishop franco mulakkal, On Monday, a court in Kerala had cancelled Mulakkal’s bail. (PTI File photo)

Punjab Cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and ex-Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese, Franco Mulakkal, were among the 340 fresh Covid-19 cases that were reported in the state Tuesday. The state also recorded nine deaths Tuesday, taking its total death count due to Covid-19 to 213.

Punjab Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa Tuesday became the first state minister to test positive for Covid-19. At 77, he is the oldest minister in the Cabinet after Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Sources said Bajwa was tested on TruNat machine after he developed symptoms with high fever on Monday. The report came out to be positive. Although his RT-PCR test report is awaited, he has been admitted to Mohali’s Fortis Hospital.

Bajwa is the first minister to test positive after 16 PCS and two IAS officers tested positive.

On July 9, Bajwa had attended an hour and a half long meeting with Director Rural development, Vipul Ujjwal. Incidentally, the meeting took place on the same day when Ujjwal’s wife and IAS officer Sonali Giri had given her sample for her Covid-19 test, which later came out positive in the evening. Ujjawal’s sample was taken the next day (July 10), and he also tested positive. Following this, Bajwa had got himself tested on July 11. But his first report came out negative.

“I had fever at 101 yesterday and had a bad throat. I was already asked to repeat the test after five days of the first test. But after developing symptoms, I immediately gave a sample and have unfortunately tested positive,” Bajwa said, adding that his fever had come down on Tuesday.

Health Minister met Bajwa Monday

Meanwhile, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said he had met Bajwa at a function in the latter’s constituency Fatehgarh Churian on Monday, where he had gone to inaugurate a hospital.

“He was at the function, but stayed away from everyone. He did not come near me and stayed at least a metre away,” said the Health Minister.

Sidhu added that he does not need to test as he did not have any symptoms. “I tested two days ago and it came out negative. I do not think I need to test now. I did not come close to him at all.”

The Health Department, Sidhu revealed, will do contact tracing of Bajwa on Wednesday and his family members including his wife, son, daughter and grandson will also be tested. Besides, the minister’s staff, including security guards, drivers and other servants, will also be tested, and his house will also be sanitised.

Bajwa’s infection is now also being linked to the lunch meeting of 40 PCS officers. Ropar SDM G S Johal had tested positive after attending the meeting following which Ropar DC, Sonali Giri, had tested positive. Later, her husband Ujjawal, who tested positive on July 10, had a meeting with Bajwa. However, Bajwa’s nephew, SSP Jalandhar (Rural) Navjot Singh Mahal had also tested positive on July 9.

Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, punjab cabinet minister positive, punjab covid news  Bajwa’s infection is being linked to the lunch meeting of 40 PCS officers. (Express photo/file)

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has wished Bajwa a speedy recovery. He tweeted: “Wishing my Cabinet colleague Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa Ji a speedy recovery. He has tested positive for #Covid19 today. Looking forward to having you rejoin us soon again.”

No other minister apart from Sidhu met Bajwa after Ujjwal tested positive.

Mulakkal tests positive

In Jalandhar, the ex-Bishop of Diocese of Jalandhar, Franco Mulakkal tested positive for the Covid-19 through TruNat test. This came a day after the cancellation of his bail and issuing of the arrest warrants against him by Kerala court in a rape case.

He was already under home quarantine since July 6 after his advocate tested positive on July 3. His sample was taken again on Monday and the report came on Tuesday.

Mulakkal had had long meetings with his Jalandhar-based advocate on June 29 and June 30. After his advocate tested positive on July 3, the former Bishop’s sample was taken and he tested negative on July 6, but he was put under the home quarantine for 14 days.

Subsequently, he developed some symptoms and his sample was again taken on Monday which has now come back tested positive.

PRO for Bishop House, Jalandhar, Father Peter Kavumpuram, said that as per the Covid-19 guidelines he will remain in isolation till the time he has not recovered.

Court has ordered that he be produced on August 13, but at the moment Mulakkal cannot be arrested because as per the Covid-19 guidelines, positive patients cannot travel.

“And his arrest will be made in August only when he will be produced in the court,” said sources.

His bail was cancelled Monday as he did not appear in the court on July 1 on the pretext that Jalandhar was under the containment zone. But then prosecution produced records of Jalandhar administration in which it was mentioned that the area where Mulakkal had been living was not under the containment zone.

He is the first one from Bishop House, who has tested positive. A large number of other office bearers and staff stay in the Bishop House, Jalandhar.

340 new cases, 9 deaths

As per official media bulletin, there were 340 new cases in the state on Tuesday, driving up the total tally of persons testing positive for novel coronavirus infection to 8,511.

Three deaths were reported from Ludhiana (Two women aged 55 and 40 and a man aged 57), two from Mohali (men aged 48 and 65), two from Sangrur (women aged 55 and 60), one from Fazilka (50-year-old man), one from Amritsar (62-year-old man).

A Health Department official said prior to this, maximum number of Covid-19 deaths reported in a day were eight.

Ludhiana and Jalandhar reported 80 new cases each, followed by Patiala (51) and Mohali (26).

In Ludhiana, six policemen from city police tested positive.

Four assistants sub-inspectors (ASIs) aged 48, 49, 50 and 50, posted with CIA-1 staff of Ludhiana city police tested positive. The CIA-1 staff premises near Ludhiana police commissioner’s office has been sealed temporarily.

A 54-year-old inspector posted as SHO and a 27-year old constable- both from Moti Nagar police station, tested positive. Ludhiana Police Commissioner Rakesh Agrawal said that Moti Nagar police station has been sanitised and closed for public dealing temporarily for two days. A 53-year-old ASI from traffic wing of Khanna police also tested positive. Khanna SSP Harpreet Singh said that the cop was having kidney and liver issues and was undergoing treatment. Since some days, he also had fever.

A woman judicial magistrate also tested positive in Ludhiana following which eleven persons including a court reader, two stenographers, three advocates, a police inspector have been quarantined. Earlier, the judge’s husband had tested positive.

The other districts which had new cases were Amritsar (22), Sangrur (20), Faridkot (12), Nawanshahr and Ropar (9 each), Fatehgarh Sahib (7), Kapurthala (6), Fazilka and Ferozepur (4 each), Hoshiarpur (3), Tarn Taran (2) and Mansa, Moga, Bathinda, Pathankot and Gurdaspur (1 each).

As per the official media bulletin, 5,663 patients have been discharged and there are 2,635 active cases, 54 of them on oxygen support and 11 on ventilator support.

Amritsar has reported maximum Covid-19 deaths (56), followed by Ludhiana with 34 deaths and Jalandhar with 28 deaths. Ludhiana has reported maximum cases of infection (1,520), followed by Jalandhar (1,345) and Amritsar (1,109).

With ENS Inputs

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