India riveted by Amitabh Bachchan’s COVID-19 status

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Amitabh Bachchan with his son Abhishek Bachchan. Photo: Reuters.

NEW YORK – India’s most famous actor Amitabh Bachchan and three of his family members, son Abhishek Bachchan, daughter-in-law, the heralded actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and eight-year-old granddaughter, tested positive for COVID-19, as the country reeled under a growing number of coronavirus infections, and some cities began to reinforce lockdowns in a desperate attempt to bring the count down.

The 77-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, together with his actor son Abhishek Bachchan, announced their illness late on Saturday.

“I have tested COVID positive … shifted to hospital … hospital informing authorities … family and staff undergone tests, results awaited,” Amitabh Bachchan said, in a tweet.

Minutes later, his 44-year-old son Abhishek Bachchan also tweeted he had been infected.

“Both of us having mild symptoms have been admitted to hospital. We have informed all the required authorities and our family and staff are all being tested,” he said. “I request all to stay calm and not panic.”

The Bollywood actors were admitted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment hub.

Around India, fans, politicians, fellow actors and businessmen wished the pair a full and speedy recovery.

“I will pray and not eat till you recover and leave hospital,” posted one fan Manoj Pandit on Twitter, where Amitabh Bachchan has over 43 million followers.

Despite a stringent lockdown, the coronavirus has infected over 800,000 people and killed over 22,000 in India, with daily counts now in the range of 30,000 new infections. It has the third-biggest outbreak behind the United States and Brazil in confirmed infections. Mumbai itself recorded 90,000 COVID-19 cases.

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 13 million on Tuesday, and the world’s eighth biggest economy, California, moved to again temporarily shut down higher-risk businesses such as bars and restaurants after a spike in hospitalizations, reported MarketWatch.

Amitabh Bachchan has been helping lead the fight against COVID-19, appearing in public service advertisements.

He joined the film industry in 1969 and has made over 200 movies. The actor suffered a near-fatal injury during the shooting of an action scene on a film set in 1982 and was critically ill for several months. The nation prayer for his recovery then, as they are doing now.

In recent years, he returned as the celebrity host of “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and one of its most watched shows.

Abhishek Bachchan had announced his wife and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and their eight-year-old daughter had also been infected by the new coronavirus.

“Aishwarya and Aaradhya have also tested COVID-19 positive. They will be self quarantining at home,” he tweeted, saying other family members had tested negative and thanking Indians for their wishes and prayers.

“My father and I remain in hospital till the doctors decide otherwise. Everyone please remain cautious and safe. Please follow all rules!” added Abhishek Bachchan, 44.

Maharashtra state health minister Rajesh Tope also said in a tweet Aishwarya and her daughter had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Reports said Amitabh Bachchan and his son were doing fine in hospital.

Speaking to PTI, a hospital official said, “They both are in the (isolation) ward and are clinically stable. At present, they do not require aggressive treatment. They are okay with the first line of medication. They are being given supportive therapy. Their vitals and appetite are fine.”

A hospital source said, “Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan are stable and responding well to treatment. They will have to be in hospital for at least seven days,’ reported India.com.

Across the four bungalows of Bachchans, 26 staff members have tested negative for coronavirus. Authorities traced 54 contacts which are the close contacts of the Bachchans. They even traced people who came in contact with Abhishek, when he travelled to the dubbing studio for his latest web series Breathe: Into The Shadow. Out of 54 contacts, 25 were tested and 28 have been asked to home-quarantine themselves, reported India.com.

Bollywood industry actors wished Amitabh Bachchan speedy recovery.

“Get well soon sir,” the actor Paresh Rawal tweeted. “Praying for your speedy recovery Sir. Love and prayers,” added Bollywood leading man Akshay Kumar.

 

Amitabh Bachchan responded to the prayers of his well-wishers with a tweet: “It shall not be possible for me to acknowledge and respond to all the prayers and wishes expressed by them that have shown concern towards Abhishek, Aishwarya, Aaradhya and me .. I put my hands together and say .. Thank you for your eternal love and affection.”

The elder Bachchan had a near-fatal accident in 1982 when a table hit him in the abdomen while shooting a fight scene.

That triggered an outpouring of love, with one fan said to have walked backwards from southern Hyderabad city to Mumbai in his honor.

Aishwarya Bachchan, 46, who often features on “most beautiful” lists, has also worked in several Bollywood and Hollywood films. She is a brand ambassador for some multinational companies, including L’Oreal .

Amitabh Bachchan, who endorses dozens of Indian and global brands, has a net worth estimated to be over $100 million.

An official in the prime minister’s office told Reuters that senior bureaucrats and ministers had been asked to show restraint on tweeting about the Bachchan family to avoid speculation and ensure there was equality of treatment for all patients.

Authorities have been sanitizing Amitabh Bachchan’s upscale residence in Mumbai, spraying disinfectant inside the compound and on cars parked outside.

He has been a prominent figure in the fight against the coronavirus, appearing in public service advertisements where, in his trademark baritone, he urges people to wear masks, wash hands frequently and maintain social distance.

India’s film industry recently resumed shoots after a months-long hiatus following a nationwide lockdown in late March. But actors over 65, such as Amitabh Bachchan, have been banned from the sets because of their vulnerability.

Thousands of fans continued to wish Amitabh Bachchan speedy recovery.

“It’s shocking to know that one of the richest and most talented, educated family (sic) can get infected. We can only hope the family recovers as it’s important for the morale of millions,” tweeted one fan Jayant Sathe.

Special Hindu rituals were performed in temples all over India by fans praying for his recovery.

“It feels like not only Amitabh Bachchan has fallen sick, but an entire generation has become sick,” Vijay Patodia, a member of the All Bengal Amitabh Bachchan Fans’ Association, told Reuters in a temple in the eastern city of Kolkata.

“Hope he, @juniorbachchan & his family recover from #Covid_19 very soon & released from hospital,” @jaikukki tweeted from the United States, along with a video of Bachchan singing a popular hymn.

Some people, however, said the Bachchans were privileged to have got top-class treatment immediately while many others struggled with a shortage of hospital beds, medics and medicines in major cities.

“Without any malice for them, and hoping that they get well soon, this only makes many wonder how easily they got beds while regular common ppl are struggling,” tweeted @rajneilkamath, a factchecker.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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