People queue outside a fair price shop in Kolkata on Wednesday. (Express photo by Partha Paul)
As India reported new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours taking the nationwide tally of the confirmed cases at 1,834, including 41 deaths, authorities across states have identified more than 6,000 people who attended the Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the country. More than 5,000 of those identified to have attended the congregation have been quarantined, including in hospitals across states, while efforts are on to trace another 2,000 including in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Health Ministry officials have attributed the rise in the number of cases to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which took place in mid-March, but said that it, however, does not show a national trend. They urged people to follow guidelines during the lockdown period and avoid congregations, including religious gatherings. The Centre also asked all states and Union Territories to launch on a “war footing” the contact tracing of all participants of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, which has emerged as the coronavirus hotspot.
In the United States, the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 4,000 early Wednesday, more than double the number from three days earlier, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the pandemic the most challenging crisis since World War II and one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
India sees biggest single-day jump in COVID-19 cases. Delhi's Markaz Nizamuddin has emerged as one of the coronavirus hotspots. Follow LIVE updates on the virus in India, Italy, the United States and other countries in Bangla, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam.
Mumbai police seal the area outside a suspected coronavirus patient's house (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)
Andhra Pradesh has identified 711 persons who were at the Delhi gathering. From neighbouring Telangana, at least 400 persons participated in the meeting. In Tamil Nadu, officials said 1,031 people attended the congregation, but are yet to trace 300. Karnataka has placed 78 persons, including 50 foreign nationals, in quarantine, after authorities discovered that the 60-year-old man who died in Tumkur on March 27 was also infected at the Markaz.
In Kerala, officials said about 59 persons had attended the programme in Delhi, and the process of identification was still on. Closer to Delhi, the Uttar Pradesh government said 157 persons from 19 districts attended the congregation, six of whom have tested positive for Coronavirus. While both Assam and Uttarakhand said they had records of the persons who attended the programme in Delhi, they were relieved that most or all of them continued to remain in Delhi.
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.
Even as a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the Capital has emerged as a common link between many COVID-19 positive cases, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday that the “probability” of infection in India was still “very low” as compared to the US, now the global hotspot of the outbreak. In India, officials have said the rate of increase in cases slowed down after the nationwide lockdown began from March 24 midnight.
Although COVID-19 cases have grown faster over the last one week, the transmission rate in India is lower than elsewhere, experts note. On March 19, every positive case in India was transmitting the virus to 1.7 people on average. By March 26, that number had risen to 1.81, but remained significantly lower than in countries such as Iran or Italy, according to Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai scientist Sitabhra Sinha.