The Andhra Pradesh police on Sunday booked a pastor at Rayavaram village in East Godavari district for violating lockdown orders and holding a prayer meet which saw over 100 people in attendance. The prayer was held to mark the beginning of Holy Week for Christians.
The police, who conducted a raid, said that none of the devotees were wearing masks and they were also allegedly drinking communion from the same jar, according to reports. After police visited the premises, they sent the devotees home and took the pastor into custody.
The pastor identified as Vijay Ratnam was booked under Sections 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 270 (Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of the Epidemics Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
A pastor arrested in Rayavaram, East Godavari district, #AndhraPradesh. Ignoring lockdown, he was holding a prayer meeting with about 150 ppl. Locals alerted the police. #COVIDIOTS #Covid_19 pic.twitter.com/VIvwS3m7ptâ€” Revathi (@revathitweets) April 5, 2020
The incident took place even as the Federation of Telugu Churches executive secretaries, Dr Anthoniraj Thumma and B Danam wrote to the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments last week, stating that they would cooperate with authorities and ensure that churches remain shut.
Andhra Pradesh reported 26 new cases on Sunday evening, taking the state's tally of COVID-19 cases to 252. Out of these cases, 11 were reported from East Godavari district.
The state government has also placed the residential locations of people testing positive for coronavirus, on a 'red alert' list, to enable greater monitoring and also ensure that such areas are quarantined properly.
Vizianagaram and Srikakulam are the only districts in the state not to have reported any COVID-19 cases.
The state saw a spurt in COVID-19 cases after March 20, when large numbers of people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi, between March 15-17, began returning to their homes.