Tablighi Jamaat Markaz event attendees significantly added to India’s Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as state governments continued to trace, quarantine and test those who were present at the congregation between March 1-15. By Wednesday night, the total number of positive novel coronavirus cases in India was 1,998, with at least 58 deaths.
On Wednesday, over 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.
Experts believe these numbers are likely to go up as several hundred attendees of the religious congregation in south Delhi’s Nizammudin area showed symptoms of Covid-19, their test results are awaited.
Meanwhile, the common people continued to suffer on Day 8 of the nationwide lockdown as essential commodities remained in short supply across the nation. While shopkeepers blamed it on the absence of supply chain, the government assured that it was working to ensure that at least 2 lakh trucks ply on the roads by Thursday, delivering essential food items and medicines.
Here are all key developments on Covid-19 outbreak in India:
Largest single-day spike
India on Wednesday reported at least 387 new cases with at least 11 deaths. The number of recovered patients increased from 153 to 159. With over 300 cases reported in a day, it is the largest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases for India.
Authorities attributed the big spike in the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases largely to the Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox Muslim society set up nearly 100 years ago by Deobandi Islamic scholar Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Khandhalawi as a religious reform movement and to spread the faith.
The latest Union Health Ministry update put the nationwide tally of the confirmed COVID-19 cases at 1,637 after 376 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours and the death count at 38. But figures announced by different states and union territories totaled 1,998 with at least 58 deaths.
The ministry officials said cases have increased largely due to Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which took place in mid-March, and therefore technically it does not show a national trend. They urged people to follow guidelines during the lockdown period and avoid congregations, including religious gatherings.
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi were among the places to report a large number of new cases.
Maharashtra reports 5 out of 11 deaths
The western state is among the worst-hit regions by the Covid-19 outbreak in India. On Wednesday, Maharashtra registered six out of a total of 12 casualties to the disease.
Five coronavirus patients — three women and two men — died during the day, all of them in Mumbai, taking the state’s death toll to 16.
The women patients were 84, 73 and 63 years old, respectively. “One of them died at the civic-run Nair Hospital while two succumbed at private hospitals in the city,” an official said.
A 75-year-old man and another, 51-year-old man died at Mumbai hospitals.
Other six deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh (2), West Bengal (2) and Madhya Pradesh (2)
Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday reported its first coronavirus deaths with one casualty each in Gorakhpur and Meerut.
Two persons infected with coronavirus have died in West Bengal. A 57-year-old man, who was admitted to a private hospital in Golabari area of Howrah district two days ago, died on Tuesday night. Another 57-year-old man died in a hospital in Belghoria in North 24 Parganas district on Wednesday morning.
In Madhya Pradesh, samples of a 65-year-old man who died three days back here have been found to be positive for novel coronavirus, a senior official said on Wednesday. A 65-year-old man who tested positive for Covid-19 passed away in Indore on Wednesday.
Tablighi Jamaat time bomb
In a sweeping nationwide hunt, authorities across states have identified more than 6,000 people who attended the Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in India.
After the authorities started to trace and test people who attended Tablighi Jamaat congregation recently, the number spike significantly in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
In Delhi, the authorities said coronavirus cases have risen to 152, including 53 who attended the Nizamuddin congregation.
The number in Maharashtra increased by 33 to 335 on Wednesday, including 30 in Mumbai alone. The tally can increase further as nearly 5,000 quarantined persons are in the high-risk category, according to the state government.
In Tamil Nadu, 110 people who returned from Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi have tested positive, taking the total cases in the state to 234.
In Tamil Nandu, at least 515 persons have been identified for having attended the Nizamuddin meet, while at least 59 of them have been quarantined. Chief Minister K Palaniswami said 1,131 men have returned to the state of the about 1,500 people who went for the event.
In Telangana, 50 of the 57 positive cases had attended the gathering, while the state authorities have identified and quarantined at least 840 people linked to the event. The search is on for 160 others.
In Delhi also, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said 2,361 people were evacuated from the place of the Nizamuddin congregation, out of which 617 have been admitted to hospitals for showing COVID-19 symptoms while the rest are quarantined.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said authorities are tracking mobile phones of people under quarantine to check their movement.
The Centre on Wednesday 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 a video conference with chief secretaries and DGPs of all states and Union Territories (UTs), Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba also asked them to take action against foreigners, who participated in the missionary activities of the Tablighi Jamaat, for violation of visa conditions.
In Karnataka, at least 50 foreigners have been quarantined after they were found to have attended the congregation while 12 others are said to have left the country. The state authorities have also identified 342 Indians who had attended the event, out of which nearly 200 have been quarantined.
The Uttar Pradesh government has also ordered 569 people to be quarantined for having attended the congregation, while Gujarat has so far quarantined at least 85 and a massive manhunt is underway as nearly 1,500 from the state have been found to have participated in the religious gathering.
Gujarat High Court, separately, also issued notice to the central and the state governments over the Nizamuddin congregation.
The Uttarakhand government has also identified 26 such people but said they were yet to return from Delhi.
In Rajasthan, the government officials said 538 persons could have traveled to various parts of the state after attending the event.
At least 81 Tablighi Jamaat returnees are suspected to be in Bihar, out of which 30 have been identified, while Assam now has 13 confirmed cases of the deadly virus infection all of whom had attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet.
According to Assam government, there are 347 people in the state who had attended the congregation, of which 230 have been located so far.
At least seven Covid-19 deaths so far have had links to the congregation — six in Telangana and one in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday reported seven new positive cases, taking the total number in the Union Territory to 62. Besides, a total of 17,041 cases are under surveillance there.
Fresh cases of infection reported on Wednesday included some doctors, CRPG personnel and a police constable as well.
Essential commodity battle
The essential commodity supply continued to pose a challenge for the Centre and state governments on Wednesday, even as the nation entered Day 8 of the lockdown. India Today TV ground report revealed that several people continued to face problems due to lack of essential goods and medicines at retail stores, while doctors at some hospitals raised red flags over the supply of personal protective gear or PPE, essential while treating highly contagious patients.
For the groceries, the government has assured that it was working to bring out at least 2 lakh trucks of essential goods on the roads by tomorrow.
For the PPEs, a senior health ministry official on Wednesday told media that the Centre was working to import the equipment while also looking at some indigenous solutions.
To boost the availability of medical facilities for novel coronavirus patients, the armed forces have made available over 9,000 hospital beds and more than 8,500 doctors and support staff across the country, while Railways has also converted some of its coaches into isolation wards.
India is looking at South Korea, Germany and China for procurement of cutting-edge technology and adopting best practices being followed by them in successfully containing the spread of coronavirus amid looming risk of the country entering the community infection stage of the pandemic.
PM Modi to hold meeting with CMs
Amid heightened efforts to contain the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra will also hold a video conference with all chief ministers on Thursday during which issues such as ways to contain the spread of COVID-19, movement of migrants and contact tracing of Tablighi Jamat participants are likely to come up for discussion, sources said.
The availability of essential items will also be discussed during the conference in the wake of the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
More than 45,000 people have died due to Covid-19 worldwide so far since December, while over 9 lakh infections have been reported so far. Nearly half of the world population is currently under partial or full lockdown, taking a big toll on the economy as well.