NEW DELHI: In a sudden outbreak and detection of multiple coronavirus cases, the Delhi-based headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin West has turned into a hotspot, alarming health authorities. It had hosted a congregation this month which was attended by followers from abroad and India. Nine Indians who attended – six in Telengana and one each in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and J&K – have died of the disease.
At least one foreign national, a Filipino, has died and 19 foreigners, followers of this Islamic missionary movement, have tested positive for Covid-19 across the country so far.
Of 25 new cases of Covid-19 that Delhi reported on Monday, 18 were from this seminary in Nizamuddin, said a senior official from the state health department. This takes the city’s tally of cases to 97.
About 250 foreign nationals had arrived in the capital in the first week of March to attend a religious congregation organised by the Jamaat after which many of them travelled to various states. Many Indian followers too had joined them.
Sources said more than 1,500 members of the group are still inside the mosque of which nearly 300 were found to have fever, cough and breathing difficulty. Many of them have been rushed to various public hospitals in Delhi for isolation even as the area has been put under a complete lockdown with police, health and municipal authorities trying to detect and limit the spread.
The headquarters of the Jamaat, known as Bangle Waali Masjid, has been sealed and all the remaining members are being screened for Covid-19 symptoms.
The Tablighi Jamaat tries to replicate the way Muslims lived in the time of Prophet Muhammad. It was started in 1926 in Mewat province by Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammad Ilyas. Followers are asked to visit areas in groups and enlighten the locals about their role and responsibilities as a Muslim.
The foreign members or followers of the Jamaat had come from countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia besides others and were staying in mosques in other states after having checked out of the Nizamuddin headquarters which had provided them local guides.
Government sources said many of them who are yet to be screened for Covid-19 could be potential carriers of the novel coronavirus as they have come in contact with the infected ones. “All foreign workers of Tablighi Jamaat have been located and all DGPs have been alerted for maintaining strict surveillance,” said an official.
“There was a group of 10 from Mumbai which travelled to Delhi for the convention. One of them, a preacher from Philippines, died at Kasturba Hospital,” sources said. One of the Indian followers, a 65-year-old man from Jammu and Kashmir, died last week.
Sources said 85 preachers of the Jamaat had been admitted in Lok Nayak Hospital yesterday while six others who were confirmed positive on Sunday have been shifted to AIIMS, Jhajjar. On Monday, 200 more people were admitted to Lok Nayak. “They have fever and cough and some have breathing problems. A 64-year-old man died at Lok Nayak on Sunday. His results are yet to be received. The possibility of the swab samples of others being confirmed as positive is high,” said a senior doctor at the hospital.
Some have also been admitted to Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) and Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty hospitals.
“The extent of spread of the disease is this group is difficult to assess at present. We can only hope for the best,” said an official. The government has also put more than 500 other people living in the area under surveillance and health teams have been stationed there to monitor movement of people in Nizamuddin West, which is now being regarded as a high-risk zone for Covid-19.
Another hotspot of the disease, which is linked to the Jamaat followers, is Tamil Nadu. The state reported 38 fresh cases of Covid-19 on Monday, many of which are linked to the group. The state is now trying to trace 980 Tamil Muslims who took part in the congregation in New Delhi and returned home. While 28 are believed to be from Coimbatore, chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami confirmed that 10 were members of the delegation from Erode
Many had also travelled to UP and Telengana. Two more persons tested positive in Telengana on Monday. They are family members of a person who had earlier tested positive. This man had hosted a group of Indonesian preachers who visited Karimnagar on March 14 and one among them was the first to test positive at Gandhi hospital in Secunderabad.