Coronavirus | Cannot conclusively link COVID-19 spread in Bhopal, Indore to Tablighi Jamaat, say experts

As cases spiral, experts are scrambling to locate the source of the outbreak.

Updated - April 13, 2020 12:53 pm IST

Published - April 12, 2020 10:59 pm IST - Bhopal

The Bhopal administration has earmarked four verticals from where the most cases have emerged. Photo for representation.

The Bhopal administration has earmarked four verticals from where the most cases have emerged. Photo for representation.

Madhya Pradesh State government officials and experts have said it was yet to be conclusively established whether returnees from the Tablighi Jamaat event at the Nizamuddin centre were major contributors to the coronavirus spread in Bhopal and Indore, the two hotspots in the State.

Data | The Nizamuddin cluster and the coronavirus spread

This runs contrary to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s claim before Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference on Saturday: “Both Bhopal and Indore, almost the entire cities are a hotspot. We have divided them into zones. In Indore and Bhopal, especially those who have returned from Markaz (centre), because of them our problems have increased like the rest of the entire country. But we are also trying to control it.”

Also read: Ground Zero | The story of India’s largest COVID-19 cluster

However, the largest chunk of cases in Bhopal, 74 from the State Health Department, did not find a mention in the conference. The Bhopal administration has earmarked four verticals from where cases have emerged — the Health Department, the police, the Tablighi Jamaat, and ‘miscellaneous’. But for the other three, health experts’ efforts at locating the source of outbreak within the department have come to naught. So far, 20 members of the Jamaat who had returned from the meeting had tested positive in Bhopal.

No travel or contact

On April 7, three members had tested positive in Indore, which has recorded 311 cases. As cases spiral in the State’s most populous city, experts are scrambling to locate the source of the outbreak here too, as most patients haven’t had a travel or contact history.

Also read: Editorial | Beyond the blame game: On the Tablighi Jamaat episode

On a query on whether members of the Jamaat had been prominent carriers of the disease in Indore, Rahul Rokade of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, Indore, said, “We are working on that. We are working with the intelligence wing to see if there is a link. As of now, there is no substantial verification with our data.”

Responding to the same query, Sapna M. Lovanshi, Additional Director, Directorate of Health Services said Bhopal was an exception to such a conclusion: “We can’t say it conclusively yet as the analysis is still going on. In some other districts, the link may hold true.”

Also read: Coronavirus | Bhopal doctor shifts to hotel after ‘car quarantine’

The government was yet to get results of samples taken from the primary contacts of the Jamaat members who had tested positive in Bhopal, said Upendra Jain, Additional Director General of Police, Bhopal. “There are many more who have tested positive, but we have not been able to establish so far as to what exactly is the reason. There is a strong possibility that they acquired the illness during their visits to mosques, where the members stayed,” he said.

Police personnel test positive

So far, more than 12 police personnel and their family members had tested positive for the disease in Bhopal. The police had identified 35 Jamaats, including seven made up of foreigners. The foreigners and five Indian Jamaats had taken part in the Nizamuddin meeting, from whom 250 samples were collected, and 20 turned out to be positive for COVID-19.

“The process of searching, discovering and recording contact and travel histories of the members was done by police personnel. Now, since we don’t have any other visible reason as to why these people got the illness, we can draw a correlation of their having come in contact with the infected members, and thereby contracting the disease,” he explained.

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