All occupants of the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters, at the centre of an extensive net of the novel coronavirus transmission, were evacuated by early Wednesday, even as the authorities scrambled to identify and quarantine visitors who had returned home to various parts of the country.
At least 29 more occupants tested positive on Wednesday, taking the total in Delhi alone to 53.
As many as 110 people who returned to Tamil Nadu from the Tablighi meeting held in mid-March tested positive. Of around 310 delegates from Kerala, only 60 have returned to the State, and are under quarantine.
The missionary sect’s followers travel extensively, and efforts are on to trace the rest. At least 500 participants from Haryana are in quarantine.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba held a videoconference with the Chief Secretaries of all the States.
“Most of them are testing positive. We have so far got only about 15 negative cases. If you put 2,000 people in a closed building, everyone is bound to have it,” a Delhi government official told The Hindu . The official said they were coordinating with other States and evacuating people from different mosques in the city. “People who have visited the centre are present in other masjids. We have visited at least 15 such mosques in the city,” said the official.
The Delhi police Special Branch and the Delhi government shifted 275 foreign nationals to quarantine from various mosques and places in and around the national capital. They were associated with Tablighi Jamaat.
A total of 2,346 people were evacuated from the Markaz (centre), which serves as the international headquarters of the sect, at Nizamuddin, and 536 of them were sent to hospitals and 1,810 were sent to quarantine facilities, the Delhi government said in a statement in the evening.
The evacuation was completed around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said. “The operation lasted for three-and-a-half days, and extensively in the last 36 hours.” He said the Delhi government prepared a list of the people evacuated, along with their phone numbers, and the police were looking into it. “The cyber cell will investigate the numbers and look into who all they met and where are the rest of them. And where are the people who met them,” he said.
The asymptomatic people, who have been moved to the quarantine facilities, are not being tested immediately, but will closely be monitored, officials said. Mr. Sisodia requested all visitors to the centre in March to report to the authorities. “If you do not come forward or if you are ill and are hiding it, action will be taken against you,” he said.
The Delhi police said Maulana Saad, the head of the centre, remained untraceable. He has been charged with defying restrictions on gatherings. Thousands had gathered at the centre and dispersed between March 13 and March 24 when the nationwide lockdown came into force. Those who remained at the centre could not leave as all transport facilities came to a halt.
A senior police officer said personnel from the local police station had visited the building on March 23 and earlier to communicate the restriction on gathering of over 50 people. “We have got to know from the media that there is an FIR. But we haven’t got a copy of the FIR. We are ready to cooperate with the police if they summon us or if they come to us,” Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, advocate for the centre, said. “The authorities have sanitized the Markaz and closed it. We have offered it to be used as a quarantine facility, but it is up to them,” he said.