Kiren Rijiju shakes hands at Khelo India event in Gulmarg after advising against it

Kiren Rijijju shaking hands with sportspersons during an event in Gulmarg. Photograph by Kuwar Singh for The Kashmir Walla

Two days after advising sportspersons to refrain from handshakes amid fears of a Coronavirus breakout, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju shook hands with multiple people at the opening ceremony of Khelo India Winter Games in Gulmarg.

The novel virus, COVID-19, has infected more than a lakh people around the world and has claimed lives of more than 3,300. Like governments across the world calling off mass gathering events, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also canceled upcoming Holi Milan celebrations.

The government of Jammu and Kashmir also advised people to avoid mass gathering and stay alert. However, despite criticism from people in Kashmir, including Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattoo, the government has chosen to go ahead with the Gulmarg event, which will run from 7 to 11 March.

Mr. Rijiju was the chief guest at the opening ceremony today, which was attended by approximately 900 people.

After shaking hands with at least two people, Mr. Rijiju put on gloves that were offered by the local organizers, but he took them off multiple times during the ceremony to blow his nose, clap his hands and clean his spectacles.

The World Health Organisation has also advised against handshakes, through which the new Coronavirus can spread. “People tend to run their hands by their nose, so handshakes transmit nasal discharge through which the virus can spread,” said Dr. Javed Bhat, who works at sub-district hospital in Sopore and has been deployed at the event for medical supervision.

“We have set up screening points at several locations,” said Saramad Hafeez, secretary of J-K sports and youth department. “In this beautiful weather, we should not even think of Coronavirus.”

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