- B Sriramulu's remarks have landed him in controversy
- Karnataka has replaced Gujarat as the fourth-worst affected state
- Amid opposition attacks, Mr Sriramulu later gave a clarification
As India's coronavirus tally continues to surge, the health minister in Karnataka - which has logged over 47,000 patients so far - on Wednesday said that "only god can help save us" from the highly contagious disease. B Sriramulu's remarks have landed him in controversy amid attacks from the opposition parties.
Karnataka has replaced Gujarat as the fourth-worst affected state in the country after Maharashtra (2.75 lakh cases), Tamil Nadu (1.51 lakh cases) and Delhi (1.16 lakh cases).
"Worldwide the number of coronavirus cases is increasing. All of us should be alert. Whether you are a member of the ruling party or in the opposition, rich or poor... the virus doesn't discriminate," the 48-year-old BJP leader told reporters.
"The cases (in the state), I am sure 100 per cent will only go up in the next two months. One can keep claiming that it's because of the government's negligence or irresponsibility of the ministers or that cases are up because of a lack of coordination among the ministers. All of these allegations are far from the truth. Only God can save us from coronavirus," he added.
Hitting out at the BS Yediyurappa government over the health minister's remarks, Congress's DK Shivakumar tweeted: "Karnataka's Health Minister saying "Only God can save Karnataka" reflects poorly on @BSYBJP govt's ability to handle the CoVID crisis. Why do we need such a govt if they cannot tackle the pandemic? This govt's incompetency has left citizens to god's mercy. (sic)."
However, Mr Sriramulu later gave a clarification. "I had said that besides people's cooperation, God should also protect us but some reporters interpreted that 'Sriramulu has become helpless with respect to coronavirus spread'," he said in a late-night video message on Wednesday, news agency PTI reported.
"What I meant was that till the time a vaccine comes, it is only God who can save us. The comment should not be wrongly interpreted," he added.
In the last 24 hours, Karnataka was among the five states in the country that reported the highest number of new infections, the government said this morning.
It recorded 3,176 new patients and 86 deaths linked to the illness taking its tally to 47,253 total cases; a total of 928 patients have died due to the illness so far.
A week-long lockdown began on Tuesday night in the state capital Bengaluru, where a sharp spike has been recorded recently, to break the chain of transmission. Fresh curbs have also been announced in Dhadwad, Mangalore and adjoining areas.
On Monday, the state government decided that priority would be given to rapid antigen tests, which began in the state over the weekend. The district authorities were advised to use these test kits wisely, mainly for emergency cases where a quick result is essential. One lakh test kits have been bought and distributed in the districts.
Across India, over 9.68 lakh cases have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic; 32,000 new patients were recorded in the last 24 hours in the country's biggest single-day surge.
While, the government has eased restrictions as a part of "Unlock2", several states, including Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are imposing restrictions again to check the spread of the highly infectious virus.
Worldwide, the situation is quite similar as nations reimpose lockdowns to curb the spike in cases.