In the last two days, 647 confirmed Coronavirus cases across India linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz have been reported, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. Since March 30, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India has risen by 1050 to touch 2,301. Meaning that the cases linked to Tablighi Jamaat has contributed to 61.6% of the total spike in cases and constitute over a quarter of all confirmed infections.
The cases related to Tablighi Jamaat have been scattered all across India and includes both Indian as well as foreign nationals. The Health Ministry on Thursday highlighted that 9000 contacts of the Markaz Nizamuddin attendees have been traced and placed under quarantine. Out of these 9000 individuals, 1300 are foreign nationals.
The joint secretary for Health Lav Aggarwal had previously said that one of the main reasons positive cases have risen is because Tablighi Jamaat workers had travelled across the country. Due to transit-related history, cases are expected to rise further, he had cautioned.
COVID-19 is a highly communicable disease and the reason it has spread so fast in such little time across the world is because the sick came in close contact with healthy ones, either during travel or engaging in physical contact. Since hundreds of Tablighi Jamaat workers spread across the country for missionary work following the gathering at the Markaz in mid-March, there is a possibility that those with coronavirus may have infected others who came in close contact during their tour.
This means that if the Tablighi Jamaat cluster is kept aside, COVID-19 cases in India is rising at a much slower pace. The growth curve is far less steep if the previously mentioned 61.6% Tablighi-linked cases are subtracted from the calculation. The government has so far maintained that India has not reached the community transmission stage, a claim which may need a relook if a sizable chunk of those 9,000 quarantined test positive for COVID-19.
The three-week nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 25, prior to which only a few states like Delhi and Maharashtra had some form of prohibitory orders in place. That's one of the reasons why the number of confirmed cases in southern states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana and even Andaman & Nicobar Islands suddenly rose sharply, owing to a higher number of Tablighi Jamaat members being identified, tracked and tested.
A religious congregation was organized at Tablighi Jamaat's headquarters Markaz Nizamuddin mosque between 13-15 March which was attended by over three thousand people, from India and abroad, who since dispersed. After attending the event, many of the attendees returned to other parts of the country.
A case was registered by the Delhi Police against Markaz chief Maulana Saad and other attendees of the congregation by Tablighi Jamaat for violating the restriction pertaining to religious gatherings. Sections under the Epidemic Disease Act,1897 and Section 269, 270, 271 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code have been invoked. In the FIR, it has been stated that the congregation failed to take safety measures for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.