Mosque in Indian capital becomes COVID-19 hotspot after religious gathering

New Delhi, Mar 31 (EFE).- A mosque in New Delhi has turned out to be the country’s latest coronavirus hotspot after 24 people tested positive for the virus and hundreds of others were evacuated and quarantined from the complex, officials said Tuesday.

The Delhi health ministry reported that an estimated 1,500 to 1,700 people had been present in the Markaz complex – the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat Islamic religious movement – in the capital’s Nizamuddin neighborhood, and more than 1,000 of them had been evacuated.

“Some test reports of the samples collected from there have arrived. Twenty-four are positive,” a health ministry official told EFE on the condition of anonymity.

The official added that more than 300 of the evacuees were hospitalized after being detected with symptoms of COVID-19, while around 700 others with no symptoms were sent to quarantine centers in the capital.

“The area has been sealed. The mosque and the complex where these people were living would be sanitized and disinfected,” the official said.

Hundreds of people including foreigners had been residing in the mosque premises since a two-day gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat held between Mar. 13-15, defying quarantine norms and social distancing imposed by the government since Mar. 24 to check the spread of the deadly virus.

Several cases of infections detected from different parts of the country have been linked to the gathering at the religious center.

Health officials in the southern state of Telengana reported Monday that several of its coronavirus detections were found among the scores of people who had attended the sermons at Nizamuddin earlier this month and at least six of them had died.

“The event’s organizers committed a grave crime,” state Health Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain told the media on Tuesday, underlining that the Disaster Act and Contagious Diseases Act “was enforced in Delhi” and that assembly of more than five people was not allowed since the lockdown began on Mar. 24.

“I have written to (Delhi’s) Lieutenant governor to take strict action against them. Delhi government has given an order to file an FIR against the organizers,” Jain said.

In its defense, the Tablighi Jamaat took to social media on Tuesday, posting a Mar. 29 letter sent to the police, claiming its actions were not in defiance of the orders of the authorities in the wake of the outbreak.

“These persons were already there inside the ‘MARKAZ’ before and at the time of the promulgation of prohibitory-lockdown orders (…) and doors were closed immediately,” Moulana Yousuf said in a letter on behalf of the mosque.

He added that efforts to de-congest the place were hampered by the lockdown orders and that they had not broken any laws as Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address had asked the people to remain where they were.

The Tablighi Jamaat is a global Sunni Muslim missionary movement whose followers are known to be apolitical and encourage Muslims to follow basic puritan form of Islam.

The movement traces its origin back to India a century ago.

As of Tuesday morning, India had registered 1,251 cases of coronavirus and 32 deaths, according to official figures. EFE


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