Bengaluru: People should rise above religious affiliations to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Wednesday and warned of stringent action against those who make communal statements.

Sonowal’s remarks came day after an opposition All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA was arrested for allegedly making "objectionable" remarks about the condition of quarantine facilities and hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, calling them worse than detention centres.

"Everybody has to rise above religious affiliations and desist from making any comment with communal overtones,” Sonowal said.

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The chief minister was on a day-long visit to Barak Valley districts to review the preparedness to tackle the disease.

"The contagious virus knows no religion, no region, no caste, no creed, poor or rich and transcends all geographical barriers. To overcome this huge challenge, we have to fight unitedly", Sonowal said.

He told reporters that law enforcing agencies would take stringent measures against anybody making communal statements to create disturbances.

The chief minister appealed to people not to vitiate the atmosphere by making communal statements at a time when the country is passing through a critical juncture due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The state has a total of 19 COVID-19 positive cases. There is no report of any death or anybody recovering from the infection in the state so far, as per the latest update.

An audio clip of a telephonic conversation purportedly between AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam and another person was doing the rounds on social media, in which the lawmaker can be heard talking "disparagingly" about the quarantine facilities and hospitals.

He also purportedly said these facilities were worse than detention centres. Hundreds of suspected illegal migrants and doubtful citizens, many of them Muslims, are lodged in the detention centres in Assam.

The chief minister said it is going to be a long-drawn battle against the coronavirus and everyone must rise in unison to overcome the huge challenge posed by the disease worldover, he said.

The chief minister said that he was holding talks with religious leaders so that people of all faiths follow the lockdown guidelines and do not assemble in places of worship.

"Social distancing and avoiding gatherings are the only ways out to arrest the spread of the virus as there is no vaccine available," he said.

The chief minister held separate meetings with deputy commissioners and other senior officers of the respective districts to review the measures taken to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 infection. He reiterated the need to stay indoors during the lockdown period and assured people that there would not be any shortage of essential commodities.

Sonowal asked the deputy commissioners to give special attention to tea garden workers and their families.

He said that everybody has to put up a concerted fight against the coronavirus and different functionaries of government and non-government organizations have been working hard during the lockdown period across all the 33 districts of the state.