With ministers and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLAs caught ignoring coronavirus regulations, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the party legislators to adhere to nine "COVID mantras" such as mandatory wearing of face masks and following social-distancing norms.
In his first video-conference with BJD MLAs since the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr Patnaik on Wednesday said, "This (pandemic) also provides a unique opportunity to serve people like never before."
Besides mask-wearing and following social-distancing norms, Mr Patnaik's "COVID mantras" include avoiding public gatherings, efforts to scale up the blood donation programme and taking care of elderly people, among others.
The chief minister's advice to the MLAs assumes significance as Odisha is witnessing a spike in the number of coronavirus cases with every passing day.
The state has reported 27 deaths due to the infection till Thursday, while the number of positive cases has risen to 7,545 with 229 fresh ones.
The chief minister's pep talk to the ruling party MLAs came at a time when some senior BJD legislators and ministers have been found not adhering to the central and the state governments'' guidelines on COVID-19.
While BJD general secretary (organisation) Pranab Prakash Das was accused of violating coronavirus restrictions during his birthday celebrations last week, Culture Minister JP Panigrahi also came under the scanner for not following social-distancing norms.
Even some ministers on Rath Yatra duty in Puri were seen not wearing masks and giving a go-by to social distancing.
"You (MLAs) are very important. People have reposed faith in your leadership. In your every act, every move, every step you should inspire our workers and the people at large to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, take care of themselves and their families," Mr Patnaik told the BJD lawmakers.
The BJD has 113 MLAs, including the chief minister, in the 147-member Odisha Assembly.
Under the nine-point formula, Patnaik asked the MLAs to scale up the party's "Jeevan Bindu" (blood donation) programme and said the BJD workers in every village should volunteer in all COVID-related programmes.
Stating that Odisha has entered the most-challenging phase in its fight against the coronavirus after seven lakh people returned to the state and due to the onset of monsoon, the chief minister said the elderly people are the most vulnerable.
"We must take care of them," he said.
He asked the BJD MLAs to spread awareness on mask-wearing and social distancing.
Mr Patnaik asked the MLAs to avoid public gatherings and use other methods to connect with people using technology, adding that the lawmakers should ensure that livelihood and skill-development activities are aggressively taken up.
He informed the MLAs that each of the 50,000 ward-level COVID care committees across the state is provided Rs 10,000 from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund, while each panchayat will have a COVID Care Home.
"An amount of Rs 50,000 is sanctioned for each COVID Care Home," the chief minister said.
He also said everyone should pray to Lord Jagannath for his blessings for the human race to come out of this unprecedented crisis.
"With the blessings of the Lord, people's co-operation, hard work of the people''s representatives and government servants, Odisha is in a better state in the fight against COVID-19," Mr Patnaik said.
Noting that Odisha has one of the highest recovery rates of coronavirus patients in the country and one of the lowest mortality rates of such patients anywhere, Mr Patnaik said the state still has a long way to go.
"We have entered the most-challenging phase in our fight against the coronavirus," he said.
Mr Patnaik said Odisha is one of the few states that bear all the treatment cost of COVID-19 patients and pay for the train fare of those returning to the state, adding that those in quarantine are being given a financial support of Rs 2,000.
In addition, 2.5 crore meals have been provided by Mission Shakti groups to vulnerable people, he said, adding that from setting up COVID-19 hospitals to making medical equipment available and training of manpower, the state has done it in a record time.
"Whether it is a lockdown or a shutdown, our approach has been scientific. Our strategy has been community based with monitoring through advanced technology," Mr Patnaik said.