At least 53 journalists, with the majority belonging to a television news channel, in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Of the 167 journalists tested by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation over the weekend, every third tested positive.
In a televised news conference, Joint Secretary of Health Ministry Luv Aggarwal called the development “unfortunate,” and stressed the need to stay indoors unless it was absolutely necessary to step out.
“We strongly request all journalists to follow protection during their call of duty. We will be following the sampling criteria — anyone who needs to be tested will be tested,” he told Anadolu Agency when questioned if all journalists will be tested.
Most of the journalists testing positive are asymptomatic cases.
The cases came into light after a senior journalist in the city, Ashok Bagriya, tweeted that an entire team had tested positive. He asked media houses to facilitate journalists.
“The journalists were examined by BMC. Delhi should follow the lead, it is important to tests journalists on the field. Will the media houses now pay for the medical expenses, loss of work, and mental trauma caused to the journalists and their families?” he tweeted.
The state of Maharashtra has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases in India so far, and continues to be worst-hit with 4,203 cases and 223 deaths. The South Asian nation, in total, has registered 17,615 cases, including 559 deaths.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Gurbir Singh, committee head of the Mumbai Press Club, said they were pushing for journalists to be kept away from the field.
“We are trying to find a way to get the journalists to work from home. If this continues, we will demand greater medical insurance for them, and precautionary gear too,” he said. “Companies and governments need to come up with a plan such that more journalists could work from safe spaces, including videographers and photographers, who are more vulnerable.”
While the recent cases are the highest number of journalists testing positive, newspersons in other parts of India are affected too.
Two journalists in Chennai — a 25-year-old print reporter, and a 23-year-old journalist part of the editorial team of a Tamil news channel — also recently tested positive for the disease after showing mild symptoms.
Another correspondent from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh also tested positive for the virus in March, according to local media.