After over 50 journalists tested positive for coronavirus in Mumbai on Monday Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Friday urged the central government to introduce a health insurance scheme for reporters covering the pandemic, similar to the one for frontline health workers.

In the last few weeks, several journalists in Chennai, Bhopal and other places have also tested positive, Sarangi said in a letter to Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar.

“This unfortunate development has adversely affected the spirit of our fearless journalists for whom this is the worst and most dangerous kind of occupational hazard,” said Sarangi, the Union minister of state for micro, small and medium enterprises.

He said journalists who have been infected with the deadly virus should be assured of quality treatment free of cost, besides job security and salary during their absence from duty.

“The government should make provision for a health insurance scheme for journalists… in the line with the insurance for frontline health workers,” Sarangi said in the letter to Javadekar.

He also called on the central government to come out with specific guidelines for all field journalists covering the pandemic, such as mandatory use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and report from designated sanitised areas.

“… It is more important that they are able to discharge their duty freely and truthfully, counter disinformation and ensure that our people have access to crucial and timely information,” Sarangi said.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had on Wednesday issued an advisory to print and electronic media, urging journalists covering coronavirus-related incidents to take precautions.

The Delhi government started COVID-19 testing for mediapersons from Wednesday after 53 scribes tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Mumbai. Addressing the media online, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said his government has set up a centre where free COVID-19 tests will be conducted on mediapersons.

Journalists are also at the frontline in the battle against COVID-19, he added. “We have set up a centre. All media houses and journalists will be informed about it. Interested mediapersons can undergo tests at the centre from Wednesday morning,” Kejriwal said.