AT LEAST 10 pilgrims who have returned to Punjab from Nanded Sahib in Maharashtra, where they were stranded, have tested positive for coronavirus. As more than 4,000 the pilgrims were staying together in large numbers at Nanded, officials are apprehensive of a Tablighi Jamaat kind of situation, which had led to tracing of a similar number and their contacts, stretching across 15-plus states.
With a 48-year-old Hoshiarpur resident who drove 15 of the pilgrims back to Punjab on a tempo traveller on April 25 also testing positive on Saturday, they are now being tested.
While seven of the pilgrims who have tested positive reached Sur Singh and Khemkaran in Tarn Taran district on private vehicles, the three others travelled on one of the buses arranged by the Punjab government to Kapurthala district.
Around 800 pilgrims have reached Punjab in three batches in buses since Sunday. Punjab State Transport Commissioner Dr Amarpal Singh said the last batch, of 2,850 pilgrims in 80 buses, was expected Wednesday evening.
A top Punjab government official said they were confident of controlling the situation as all the pilgrims were accounted for. “All of them have been tracked, and they are cooperating.”
Nanded Sahib has one of the holiest Sikh shrines, and the pilgrims had gone there in March and got stuck due to the lockdown.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has said that all the pilgrims returning from Nanded, like the students and labourers coming from outside the state, would be sent from the borders to government quarantine centres for 21 days and would be tested.
The president of the Takht Sachkhand Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Bhupinder Singh Manhas, said all the 320 pilgrims staying with them had gone back. A majority of the pilgrims were staying in serais (inns) managed by Gurdwara Langar Sahib, he said, which was “not linked to Takht Hazur Sahib”.
Manhas added, “At Takht Hazur Sahib, we followed all the guidelines and ensured proper distancing. The pilgrims underwent medical examination.”
Baba Balwinder Singh of Gurdwara Langar Sahib said while the pilgrims from Punjab staying in their serais were on their way back, those from Delhi, UP and Haryana were still stuck there.
One of the pilgrims from Tarn Taran who tested negative for novel coronavirus and stayed in one of Gurdwara Langar Sahib’s serais said they were concerned. “In some rooms, as many as eight pilgrims were together. Five of those who have tested positive lived in one such room with three others,” said the pilgrim, adding that they used common elevators.
A health official said contact tracing of the pilgrims had been carried out and their samples taken for testing.