A president of India’s ruling BJP party in the state of West Bengal has said that people who turn out for prayer during mass events are immune to the coronavirus, as they enjoy the protection of higher forces.

Dilip Ghosh, president of West Bengal’s branch of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to brush off mounting concerns over the novel coronavirus after he took part in a Hindu prayer ritual known as “puja” in the city of Egra on Tuesday.

Ghosh has dismissed the measures put in place to stop the outbreak around the globe, such as lockdowns and other restrictions of movement, arguing the traditional way of life in India would be incompatible with such policies.

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