The union home ministry on Wednesday announced that at least 7,600 Indians and 1,300 foreign nationals had been identified with the Tablighi Jamaat, an organisation that organised a mass event at a Nizamuddin Markaz between March 1 and March 15. The Markaz has turned out to be India's epicentre for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry has also said that there are high chances that the numbers will go up, as more Tablighi members get identified.
Data that was shared by the home ministry also shows that of those identified, 1,051 have been quarantined and 21 have tested positive.
On March 30, six people from Telangana who had attended the mass gathering died, following which the K Chandresekhar Rao-led government confirmed that the victims had attended the mass gathering at the Nizamuddin Markaz.
Since then, state governments have been tracing all those affected to various parts of the country. Two deaths have been reported since the Telangana government made the announcement.
However, since the incident a number of people have blamed the Tablighi Jamaat for not adhering to orders and going on with the gathering. In fact, the Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal put a blanket ban on over 50 people gathering at any place in the city. The organisers defended the gathering, claiming that the administration failed in arranging the transportation for preachers during the 21-day lockdown.
Interestingly, the coronavirus outbreak in Malaysia was also due to a gathering by the Tablighi Jamaat. According to a report in Al Jazeera report on March 18, “out of Malaysia's 673 confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly two-thirds are linked to the four-day meeting organised by the Tablghi Jamaat.”
Overenthusiastic followers of religious cults such as the Tablighi Jamaat, Iran’s religious population, and a South Korea Shincheonj Church have been the main culprits of spreading of the COVID-19 virus in their countries.
South Kora has recorded neatly 10,000 cases with a bulk of them coming from the cult church.
According to a New York Times report, The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that as of Saturday, 63.5 percent of all confirmed cases in the country were “related to Shincheonji.”
So far, there has been no official report of temple gatherings as yet, but knowing India’s love for religion, it won’t be surprising if we see a mass gathering at temples once the lockdown is lifted on April 15. However, after we wrote this piece, ANI put out a tweet with Telangana state ministers Allola Indrakaran Reddy and Puvvada Ajay Kumar participated in Rama Navami celebrations held today at Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple in Bhadrachalam.
As journalist Norbert Elekes, who has been tracking the coronavirus pandemic from the beginning points out, it took eight weeks for the first 1,000 cases to be recorded. Then it took four days for 1,000 to 2,000 to be recorded. He also attributed the Nizamuddin gathering as the tipping point for the rise in cases.
And scarily, these are the official number. If there were more testing kits and the doctor to patient ratio higher, chances are that there are several unreported cases of coronavirus in the country.