Karnataka Health Minister B Sriramulu on Tuesday took part in a religious procession in Chitradurga district with hundreds of supporters, in complete violation of the physical distancing guidelines to fight the coronavirus outbreak, NDTV reported. A video of the procession was widely shared on social media.

The minister was attending a ritual performed at Vedavathi river. The video shows him standing on an open truck and people showering him with flower petals. Sriramulu was accompanied by Chitradurga MLA GH Thippareddy and MP A Narayanaswamy and other leaders who did not wear face masks, according to The New Indian Express.

Karnataka, which so far has 3,408 coronavirus cases, had allowed religious ceremonies as part of relaxations of lockdown restrictions. However, physical distancing and wearing of masks is mandatory.

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The health minister told NDTV that it was not a fixed programme. “I came for river worship,” he added. “I joined this programme at the behest of the workers. I am constantly appealing to everyone. Follow this rules of social distancing, we have also made guidelines for this.”

Sriramulu also claimed that he covered with his face with a muffler during the event, contrary to what the visuals show.

Congress MLA Raghumurthy asked whether there was any difference in physical distancing guidelines for the Bharatiya Janata Party and others. He added that the procession and felicitation was unwarranted during the coronavirus outbreak.

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