Tablighi Jamaat, a global evangelical Muslim organisation conducted a meeting in Malaysia in February 2020, when travel restrictions due to the outbreak of COVID-19 were not in place in India. A March 3 New York Times report stated that this meeting had become the “largest viral vector in Southeast Asia”.
“More than 620 people connected to the four-day conclave have tested positive in Malaysia, prompting the country to seal its borders until the end of the month. Most of the 73 coronavirus cases in Brunei are tied to the gathering, as are 10 cases in Thailand. At least three coronavirus deaths have been linked to the event,” stated the report.
The same organisation which held a gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin markaz (centre) now sees a number of its members test positive for the viral disease. Preachers and people from Malaysia and Indonesia are said to have been at Nizamuddin for this congregation. This led to the area being sealed by the Delhi authorities. The event in Delhi was from March 10-13. The Union Health Ministry on March 13 said that coronavirus is not an emergency and people need not panic. The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.
After a 36-hour-long operation, 2,631 members were evacuated from the Delhi centre and shifted to hospitals for quarantine.
10 people who took part in the prayer meeting have died from the disease, with Telangana alone identifying six such deaths. In Delhi alone, 24 people who were at the event have tested positive. Multiple States are now tracking down those who attended the gathering to quarantine them and later test them for coronavirus.
In Karnataka, 78 people belonging to Tablighi Jamaat have been quarantined, and efforts are on to find around 300 people who went to Delhi. Three persons in Puducherry have been isolated.
On the Telangana-Maharashtra border, authorities have stopped 32 passengers returning from the event in a lorry. This group had reportedly visited Ajmer in Rajasthan after attending the meeting. The Telangana police have launched a massive exercise to track down returnees from Nizamuddin. 70 people in Rayalaseema have been quarantined, while 40 have been sent to isolation wards in Visakhapatnam.
In Pune, already a COVID-19 hotspot, 182 persons have been identified as having been to the conclave in Nizamuddin.
At least 25 persons from Kerala had attended the four-day meeting, of which 10 have returned to Kerala and been quarantined by the State government.
Health authorities in Tamil Nadu are tracking down around 1,500 people who were at the Delhi conference. 57 of those who have been tracked down so far have tested positive .
The first COVID-19 death in Jammu & Kashmir was of a man who attended the congregation. This person, a Srinagar-based businessman who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin travelled by air, train and road to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and back to Jammu and Kashmir before he died of COVID-19, raising fears he may have infected many others along the way. 80% of the cases in Jammu & Kashmir are linked to this person, while 50% of cases in Telangana are linked to the meeting in the Markaz.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the gathering at the centre “an irresponsible act” . Meanwhile, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan asked Delhi Police why it did not take any action to evacuate people trapped in the centre even though he had informed them on March 23.
The Home Ministry has now decided to blacklist around 800 preachers from Indonesia who took part in the Nizamuddin meeting. To do so, the Ministry has written to all States and Union Territories to “identify, screen and quarantine” foreign members of the organisation.