UP, Delhi, Karnataka govts to arrange COVID-19 tests for media persons; some journalists in Tamil TV channel test positive

The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi on Tuesday decided to arrange COVID-19 tests for media persons even as some journalists from a Tamil news TV channel in Chennai tested positive for the infection in a fresh incident involving scribes.
As media persons face mounting health risks in coronavirus coverage, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang has given cash incentives totalling Rs 31.10 lakh to 176 journalists in the state in recognition of their work in reporting of the outbreak.
The Centre also said it is considering sending an advisory to media establishments on the need for journalists to take adequate safety measures.
“Not less than 25 people have tested positive from the 90 plus samples (for confirmatory RT-PCR test) taken,” a Tamil Nadu health department official told PTI in Chennai, days after two journalists, including one who worked with the same channel confirmed positive for COVID-19.
The official also said the test results of those associated with the television channel including some journalists were being collated. Tamil Nadu has recorded 1,596 coronavirus cases.
Addressing the media online, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the government will start COVID-19 testing for media persons from Wednesday, two days after at least 53 journalists from Mumbai had tested positive for coronavirus.
“We have set up a centre. All media houses and journalists will be informed about it. Interested mediapersons can undergo tests from tomorrow morning at the centre,” Kejriwal said. The number of COVID-19 infections has crossed 2,000 in the national capital.
The Uttar Pradesh Government said orders have been issued for coronavirus testing of accredited journalists who are interested.
“Orders have been issued for coronavirus testing of accredited journalists state headquarter in Lucknow,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi told reporters.
State Director (Information) Shishir said, “Accredited journalists of state headquarter can get themselves tested for presence of coronavirus. This has started from Tuesday, and will be done in Lok Bhavan in Lucknow.” On April 19, Hemant Tiwari, president of Uttar Pradesh Rajya Mukhalaya Manyata Praapt Samvadata Samiti, wrote a letter to the UP Government demanding coronavirus testing for journalists. In the country’s most populous state, the COVID-19 cases have touched 1,300.
During a special camp organised at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai on April 16 and 17 for COVID-19 testing of scribes, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) collected swab samples of 171 media persons, including electronic and print media journalists, photographers and cameramen.
“Out of the 171 mediapersons, 53 tested positive for coronavirus,” BMC spokesperson Vijay Khabale said on Monday, adding most of those who tested positive are asymptomatic at present.
All the media persons found infected with coronavirus will be kept in isolation and a process was underway to find out suitable places, he said.
Efforts were also on to trace their high and low risk contacts.
The number of coronavirus cases in the country’s commercial capital is over 2,000.
On Monday night, the BMC decided to isolate the 53 media persons at a hotel in Goregaon for the next 14 days.
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, meanwhile, decided to place herself under quarantine after some journalists with whom she had interacted recently tested positive for the coronavirus infection.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar on Monday expressed shock over the Mumbai incident involving media persons, and said an advisory is being issued to all newspaper and media establishments to ensure that adequate precautions are taken.
“It is shocking that more than 50 journalists of electronic media, particularly camera persons, have been found Corona positive in Mumbai. Every journalist should take proper care,” Javadekar said in a tweet.
“Advisory is being issued to all newspaper and media establishments to ensure that adequate care and precautions are taken.’ On the directions of Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa, the state Information and Public Relations Commissioner S N Siddaramappa wrote to the Commissioner of Health and Public Welfare to conduct a medical checkup camp for COVID-19 testing for journalists.
Pointing out that there are about 1,000 journalists in Bengaluru alone, Siddaramappa asked the health commissioner to fix the date, time and place for the camp.
Minister for Primary and Secondary Education S Suresh Kumar. had written to the chief minister, requesting that a medical camp be held to identify journalists affected with the virus, after which the latter gave the go ahead.
“Dear friends in the media, you are toiling 24 hours a day without bothering about your life just like the doctors and police.
‘Our concern is that you should not overlook your health while performing your duty.
‘I request you to please take care of your health and undergo medical examination,” Yediyurappa tweeted.
In Sikkim, Chief Minister Tamang presented a cheque for Rs 31.10 lakh to Joseph Lepcha, president of the Press Club of Sikkim, on Monday for distribution of the cash incentive to the journalists of daily and weekly newspapers, besides those from electronic and digital media for coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
A total of 135 journalists of daily newspapers will get Rs 20,000 each, while 41 journalists of weekly newspapers as well as of electronic and digital media will get Rs 10,000 each, Tamang said.
The chief minister lauded the members of the media fraternity for their valuable contribution in ensuring timely dissemination of news and information to the people on the coronavirus outbreak.
He said the financial incentive is a small gesture from the state government to express gratitude towards the media persons who have risked their lives for news gathering and dissemination during the difficult time of the COVID-19 outbreak.
A Union Health ministry official also expressed concern over some journalists getting infected by coronavirus, and said when they attend the call of duty, they should take the required precautions.
“Follow the norms of social distancing and wear face masks. Whoever needs to be tested as per sampling criteria will be tested,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the ministry.
Voicing concern over several journalists testing positive for coronavirus in Tamil Nadu and other states, PMK founder leader S Ramadoss urged media organisations to protect their staff and suggested that the government can do away with press conferences on COVID-19.
While the operations of medical professionals and police personnel could not be scaled down in the fight against COVID-19, the work style of scribes may be altered so as to prevent them from getting infected, Ramadoss said in a statement.
Rather than convening a press conference, the information sought to be conveyed in such gatherings can be sent to media houses as ‘press releases,’ he said, adding if video footages were needed by television channels, these could be arranged by government information and public relations wing.