Kejriwal urges political parties to set aside politics, work together to serve people hit by COVID

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New Delhi, Nov 19 (PTI) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday sought cooperation from all political parties in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, asking them to work together and keep aside politics as well as blamegame over measures imposed by his government, including restrictions on performing Chhath Puja at public places.

After attending an all-party meeting convened to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the city, Kejriwal said he treated all Delhiites as a family and asserted that the Delhi government was forced to take the step of putting a ban on performing Chhath Puja at water bodies and public places to protect them from widespread coronavirus infection. The Delhi BJP and the Congress raised the issue of the ban on performing Chhath Puja at public places during the meeting and demanded that the government allow it with required COVID-19 precautions.

They also raised the issue of a proposed move by the government to shut down markets to prevent them from emerging as COVID-19 hotspots due to crowding, violations of social distancing and not wearing of face masks.

The BJP strongly hit out at the AAP government for banning Chhath Puja at public places, drawing a strong reaction from the AAP which blamed the Centre for issuing these guidelines.

'Sought cooperation from all parties in the all-party meeting. This is time to serve, not to indulge in politics. Urged the parties to distribute masks through their workers at public places. All the parties assured to serve the people, keeping aside politics,' Kejriwal tweeted after the meeting.

The chief minister said, 'I told all the parties that its a tough time for Delhi people due to rising coronavirus cases and there should be no politics at such a time. Everyone agreed that it was time to serve people sidelining politics, allegations and blame game'.

He said there were allegations and counter allegations some days ago over Chhath Puja.

We want people to celebrate Chhath happily. But, if it is celebrated at ponds and water bodies, even one COVID-19-infected person will infect others. Experts say the virus from an infected person will infect all others through water, he said.

'It will cause widespread infection. It has also been restricted in Mumbai, Gujarat and Panchkula in Haryana. We have been forced to take this step for our family of Delhi people. I appeal to people to celebrate Chhath at home,' he added.

Kejriwal said he received many good suggestions in the all-party meeting and he will work on them.

Speaking after the meeting, AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj said the Delhi government will increase the number of RT-PCR tests conducted daily from around 18,000 to 27,000 and the chief minister will meet market associations if any decision is taken on shutting down markets in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The AAP MLA said he suggested that market associations should be given a chance to present their views and take precautionary measures to check the spread of the virus.

'We said market associations should be consulted by the government before any decision is taken to shut down markets and they be allowed to take precautions so that markets do not become COVID-19 hotspots. I believe in coming days, the chief minister will meet them. Besides, discussions will also be held by district magistrate and MLA,' he said.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said the government should focus on creating awareness in market places instead of shutting them down.

'I also suggested that the government should boost testing and health facilities in view of surge in COVID-19 cases, that it has failed to do so far,' Gupta said.

Delhi BJP workers will create awareness and distribute face masks across the city, he said.

The Delhi government should clear the 'confusion' over lockdown and market closure, said Delhi Congress president Anil Chuadhary.

He also asked the Kejriwal government to provide financial help to traders and suggested that the government should take legal recourse for permission to hold Chhath at public places.

AAP MLA Atishi said Kejriwal has requested all parties to spread awareness over COVID-appropriate behaviour.

'Party workers of other parties can go to places where social distancing norms are being violated and spread awareness about COVID-appropriate behaviour ,' she said. PTI VIT UZM TDS TDS