A gathering at a mosque in Nizamuddin West mid-March has emerged as the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak not just in parts of the region now put under strict lockdown, but in Telangana, which announced Monday five Covid-19 related deaths of persons who were part of this gathering. It is also being linked to cases in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman islands, Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh.
Parts of southeast Nizamuddin West in Delhi have been put under a strict lockdown — with barricades, a drone and over 100 police personnel — as health officials said there is a possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in the area. Of the 25 new cases of COVID-19 reported from Delhi on Monday, 18 are from Nizamuddin West. The total number of confirmed cases in Delhi now stands at 97.
Further, the Health Department has shifted 85 people from the area to Delhi government’s Lok Nayak hospital after they developed symptoms of coronavirus. The hospital has 174 suspected patients admitted in total, of which 153 are from Nizamuddin West.
This comes a day after 23 new cases were recorded in the capital — six of whom were traced to a gathering at a mosque in Nizamuddin West last month. The six are a part of the Tablighi Jamaat outfit and are believed to have come in contact with many others, with authorities saying around 1,600 are being traced across the country. Cases in some other states, including Telangana, Tamil Nadu, the Andaman islands and Kashmir, have also been linked to the gathering.
In Hyderabad, health department officials said Telangana recorded five more coronavirus deaths — all of persons linked to the gathering at Nizamuddin.
“It is suspected that the virus may have been transmitted by those who were infected when they attended the event. District Collectors have been instructed to form teams to conduct checks on family members and all those who came in touch with these persons,” the Telangana Health department said in a statement.
More than 30 persons from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had attended the event from March 13-15, officials said. “Coronavirus has spread among some of those who attended a religious prayer meeting from March 13-15 in a mosque in Nizamuddin area in Delhi. Special teams under the district collectors have identified persons who came in contact with these persons, and they were shifted to the hospitals. They were tested and treated. All those who participated in the prayers should inform the officials. The government would conduct tests and offer treatment to them free of cost,” the Medical and Health Department stated in a statement.
The Delhi government, in a statement, said it plans to lodge an FIR against the maulana of the mosque.
“Around 1,600 people are now being traced and we are in the process of getting the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in Nizamuddin evacuated. People who came to Delhi for the event have been living in dormitories. We are sending buses to the area at regular intervals, and symptomatic patients are being referred to government hospitals. Those who are asymptomatic and need to be quarantined are being transported to Delhi’s government’s DDA facility in Narela,” said a senior officer from the Delhi health department.
DCP (Southeast) RP Meena said: “There are essentially two buildings — one is a mosque and the other a markaz (centre) — with five-six floors. Around 1,500-2,000 people live here. The last time a jamaat was held here was on March 20-21. Since the lockdown was implemented, we have sent two notices to them about enforcement of section 144. There are over 100 police personnel there and one drone, to ensure there is no movement at all. Only health department officials are allowed.” He said areas between the mosque and Nizamuddin dargah, right up to the police station, have been cordoned off.
A spokesperson of the markaz told The Indian Express, “On Monday, 300 people were evacuated… There is no need to worry, we are only being taken for check-up. This will go on for a few days till everyone is sent for a check-up.”
Saying that it plans to lodge an FIR against the maulana of the mosque, the Delhi government issued a statement: “Lockdown was imposed in entire India on March 24 and it was the duty of every owner and administrator of every hotel, guesthouse, hostel and similar establishment to maintain social distancing. It looks like social distancing and quarantine protocols were not practiced here.”
The statement further said that “it has come to our knowledge that the administrators violated these conditions and several cases of corona positive patients have been found here… By this gross act of negligence many lives have been endangered… this is nothing but a criminal act.”
As many 65 people from the locality were earlier admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi super-speciality hospital after they showed coronavirus symptoms. Their results are awaited. Those admitted at the hospital include people from Assam, Kolkata, Bihar, Telangana, Kashmir as well as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and Dubai.
Nizamuddin West had first come under the scanner of authorities after an 80-year-old resident tested positive last week, but the magnitude of the possible outbreak became clearer when the six men tested positive on Sunday. The six are not residents of Delhi.
A resident of Nizamuddin West said, “Since last night, there has been heavy police presence and we haven’t stepped out of the house at all. We are scared since there were several people inside the mosque, and six have tested positive. None of us are stepping out to even buy ration.”
An official from Nizamuddin dargah said the premises are being sanitised thrice a day and announcements are being made to ensure no one visits.
The Tablighi Jamaat is a conservative Muslim organisation that was set up in 1926 by Maulana Ilyas to spread religious knowledge among Muslims. It is supposed to be the largest Muslim religious movement in the world, with the word Tabligh (propagator) signifying its mandate of spreading the word of Islam.
(With inputs from Sreenivas Janyala in Hyderabad)
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