Modi’s Key Ministers Hit by Coronavirus as Pandemic Grips India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Home Minister Amit Shah. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

Modi’s Key Ministers Hit by Coronavirus as Pandemic Grips India

Several Indian ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past few days, underscoring the spread of the virus in the world’s second most populous nation.

Five ministers including Modi’s key aide and minister for internal security Amit Shah have contracted the virus which has infected nearly 2.4 million Indians. The south Asian nation has the highest death toll after U.S., Brazil and Mexico. Some of the ministers, including Shah, are in hospitals while others are recovering at home.

Shripad Yesso Naik was the latest to test Covid-19 positive. Naik, who heads the ministry of Ayush that oversees the practice of alternative medicine including ayurveda, yoga and homeopathy, posted in a tweet on Wednesday evening that he was infected and was isolating at home. Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and two other junior ministers have also tested positive.

Former president Pranab Mukherjee, who had tested positive for the virus and underwent brain surgery in an army hospital in the capital New Delhi, is in critical condition.

India has the most confirmed cases after the U.S. and Brazil -- and one of the world’s fastest growing epidemics, adding more than 50,000 cases each day. The virus has spread further from India’s top cities to its vast hinterland, where most of the population lives and health infrastructure is mostly archaic.

The pandemic hasn’t spared top politicians around the world. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro have recovered from Covid-19 while one of Iran’s vice presidents, Masoumeh Ebtekar, and deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi were also infected.

Politicians across the world are at higher risk of contracting the virus because of their frequent public interactions. In India, many of them have sought out private hospitals for treatment rather than public hospitals.

The virus has also struck a number of regional politicians. B.S. Yediyurappa, chief minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka and his counterpart in the central state of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan both contracted the virus. Across the country, at least a dozen ministers and lawmakers have been infected, while two legislators have succumbed to the virus.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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