Actor Arrested for Ignoring COVID-19 Protocols to Film Movie

The coronavirus pandemic in India has continued to worsen, leading state governments there to take major steps to try to slow the spread. Over the weekend, Punjabi actor Gibby Grewal and his crew were arrested for violating lockdown orders in order to film his next movie in a village near Patiala, Punjab. Police said over 100 people were gathered at the set, reports India's Tribune News Service. Grewal and his crew were released on bail.

Grewal, 38, and his crew were filming in the village of Banur, where they were using a house. Police received a report that someone was gathering without permission and they saw the crew still filming when they arrived. "The crew was busy shooting climax scenes when we reached the spot. The crew members and the actor were taken into custody," a police official told the Tribune.

Grewal, who is also a singer, could not show evidence that he was allowed to film in the village. After he was arrested, "certain politicians and senior police officials" allegedly tried to intervene, sources told the Tribune. Grewal claimed he did apply for permission, but his permit was still pending approval. His arrest came on the last day of filming, he claimed.

Residents told the outlet that Grewal's actions were "sheer callousness" as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise in the state. "Over 100 persons were at the location but fled when the police raided it," one villager said. "It is so easy to catch the virus and spread it. These actors should act responsibly."

This was not the first time a film production was shut down for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions. Last week, actor Jimmy Shergill, director Eshwar Niwas and other members of the crew for the web series Your Honour were arrested in Punjab for the same reason, reports News18. The production team allegedly violated curfew when filming at a secondary school in Ludhiana, Punjab.

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India is now a hot spot for the coronavirus pandemic as the country sees the biggest surge in new cases and deaths around the world. The country has set new daily records for cases and has recorded 19.9 million cases since the start of the pandemic, behind only the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. India has also reported 218,959 deaths as of Monday.

Many experts believe these numbers are undercounted. "There are still lots of people who are not getting tested," Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto told the Associated Press. "Entire houses are infected. If one person gets tested in the house and reports they’re positive and everyone else in the house starts having symptoms, it’s obvious they have COVID, so why get tested?" Based on data from the previous surge in India, Jha estimates that there could be as many as 10 times more cases in India than reported.