Delhi chief minister tests COVID positive after poll rally as India cases jump

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Tuesday he had tested positive for COVID-19, a day after speaking at an election rally where none of the people on the dais could be seen wearing a mask despite rising infections in the country.

Kejriwal, the most senior elected official in the territory of Delhi, was one of the 37,379 new COVID-19 cases reported in India in the past 24 hours. The daily case load was the highest since early September as the Omicron coronavirus variant starts to overtake Delta in places like the capital, though authorities say hospitalisations have not spiked yet.

Kejriwal, who addressed the rally in the poll-bound state of Uttarakhand, said in a Twitter post he had isolated at home with mild symptoms and urged those who came in touch with him in recent days to do similar and be tested for COVID-19.

Mega-rallies early last year helped Delta wreak havoc in the country, and several states head to elections again in a few months, worrying health experts and the public alike. Local media have reported that even a court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous, has urged authorities to consider delaying the election there.

“Try spending some time in isolation to watch your own videos/advertisements on how to be careful, wear masks, and not overcrowd public places,” Facebook user Abhishekh Singh wrote on Kejriwal’s official page.

Delhi reported more than 4,000 new infections late on Monday, with over 6% of all tests turning positive. Federal government guidance has been for local authorities to impose movement curbs as necessary when the rate breaches 5%.

India’s overall positive case rate has nearly tripled since early November to 3.24% on Tuesday, and some cities have already closed schools and colleges.

The country has so far confirmed 1,892 Omicron cases, the most being in Mumbai’s home state of Maharashtra, followed by Delhi, according to the federal home ministry.

The country’s death toll rose by 124 to reach a total of 482,017. Total infections stand at 34.96 million.