In a massive attempt at contact tracing, the Railways is helping states track down movements of those who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in the middle of March and later tested positive for COVID-19.
Armed with a list of those at the congregation who tested positive for coronavirus, authorities are looking at passenger lists of at least three trains that set off from Hazrat Nizamuddin station in Delhi between March 14 and 19 — the Duronto Express to Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, the Grand Trunk Express to Chennai, and the Tamil Nadu Express to Chennai.
According to inputs from states, two people who attended the congregation and later tested positive travelled by the Duronto on March 18 in the S8 coach along with “two companions”, two of them travelled by the Grand Trunk Express in the S3 coach with two minors, while a couple of others took the Tamil Nadu Express.
With the arrival and departure patterns of those who attended the congregation — and who have since tested positive for COVID-19 or are suspected to be infected — unclear at the moment, complete passenger lists of these three trains every day between March 14 and 19 are being dug out and shared with authorities, sources said. “This is to map out how the cluster might have broken up and travelled,” said a senior government official.
Sources said that over the last week, district authorities from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have reached out to Railway authorities. Delhi government sources confirmed to The Indian Express that they have been collaborating with the Railways.
The three trains from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu covered a distance of over around 2,000 km through multiple states. The Grand Trunk Express, for example, has some 37 stops between the departure and destination stations.
Civil authorities have, as per protocol, asked Railways to advise its train staff to be on home quarantine and monitor symptoms, if any.
“The set protocol is to send out SMSes to the passengers of the coach, call them and also monitor the staff. The tracing is being done based on specific inputs from the state authorities,” said a senior railway official.
Each of the three trains carried about 1,200-1,500 passengers, one way, including the onboard staff who would have moved across coaches for various services.
Authorities in Jharkhand have also sought details of staff and contractual personnel who travelled on the New Delhi-Ranchi Rajdhani Express on March 16-17 to determine if a person who took this train, and later tested positive for COVID-19, has any links to the cluster.
“Please share widely: Any passenger who travelled by train number 20840 (New Delhi-Ranchi) Rajdhani Express coach B1 on 17.3.2020 kindly contact immediately,” Deputy Commissioner of Ranchi R Ray tweeted Tuesday.
Authorities are calling the contact tracing effort a “work in progress” as Hazrat Nizamuddin, one of the prime stations in Delhi, sees 56 long-distance trains departing every day. Added to that, every day, 130 trains from other sources halt here. Besides, there are a few unreserved inter-city trains as well. The station sees an average daily footfall of 2 lakh.
Besides, there is the possibility that those who attended the congregation and later took trains out of Delhi did so not only from Hazrat Nizamuddin station. “Some could have left the facility and taken trains from other stations like New Delhi or Anand Vihar, so a very specific input is vital,” said a senior official.
What is adding to the problem is that the travel dates are from a time before the lockdown, when train services were fully operational. New Delhi railway station, for example, sees about 62 trains originating while 76 trains halt there with a combined daily footfall of around 5 lakh.