Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to postpone the decennial Census exercise and all related activities this year as the country confronts the escalating coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported.

The Census exercise is scheduled to be carried out from April 1 to September 30. The National Population Register – a list of “usual residents” – is scheduled to be updated simultaneously with the house-listing phase of the Census exercise.

In a letter to the prime minister, Patnaik said it would be appropriate to delay the Census “in the interest of people”. “As mobilisation for Census and other concerned activities shall pose a great risk for field functionaries and people as well, I would rather suggest to postpone the scheduled Census and related activities in the country,” he said.

Citing the home ministry’s notification for conducting the Census and updating the NPR, Patnaik said about 30 lakh enumerators and supervisors will be visiting each household in the first phase. However, this, he said, needs to be preceded by an elaborate training and awareness campaigns to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are all at present fighting against novel coronavirus pandemic. All efforts of state machinery are directed towards containment of COVID-19,” he said.

As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-Indian National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India.

Earlier in the day, the Indian Council of Medical Research said a total of 206 individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus in the country. However, the Union Health Ministry has so far confirmed 195 cases. State health officials in West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh reported new cases.

COVID-19 has infected at least 2,44,553 people worldwide and killed 10,031, according to an estimate from John Hopkins University, which is live-tracking cases reported by the World Health Organization and additional sources.