- 647 news cases spread across 14 states
- Many from India, elsewhere were present at Nizamuddin
- Event held in March, disregarding warnings over coronavirus
Over 950 coronavirus cases across the country are now linked to a religious gathering of the Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi, which has become the largest cluster reported in India. This is based on data released by states.
In the last two days, 647 cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Markaz Nizamuddin have emerged, the government said today in a briefing just before states like Delhi and Tamil Nadu released their data.
"647 positive cases of the coronavirus have been found in the last two days that are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation," said Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry.
"If we see the rise in cases in the last few days, it has primarily been due to an increase at a particular level," he added, in an apparent reference to the meet.
At least a dozen COVID-19 deaths have been linked to the same gathering. The cases are spread across 14 states.
Thousands of members from India and other countries attended the gathering at Markaz Nizamuddin, the Delhi headquarters of the Tabligh Jamaat, held in March in defiance of warnings over coronavirus. It is believed that 9,000 people participated in the congregation.
Many of the members then travelled across India despite guidelines of social distancing, propelling the surge of the highly contagious virus.
States have stepped up the search for hundreds more linked to the Markaz Nizamuddin, a six-floor building that serves as a hostel and center for the Islamic missionary sect's workers from all over the world.
The worst hit is Tamil Nadu, where 364 of 411 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the Tablighi meet. This is almost nine of every 10 cases in the state. In Delhi, 259 of 384 coronavirus cases attended the gathering.
In Uttar Pradesh, of 172 COVID-19 cases, 47 had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event.
Of the 161 coronavirus cases in Andhra Pradesh, 140 have been linked to the Delhi meet. Thirty-one cases have emerged from Rajasthan.
Concerns about the religious gathering surfaced around March 18 after Indonesian Tablighi members tested positive for COVID-19 in Telangana. A few days later, the home ministry, in a letter, sent details of the group's workers to all states and asked them to trace and test them.
Cases linked to the Tablighi gathering have also been reported from Kashmir – where one person died -- Himachal Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Tablighi Jamaat, an ultra-orthodox group that believes Muslims should replicate the life of Prophet Muhammad, take it upon themselves to travel and preach the ideals of Islam. The sect was founded in 1926 in India by a Deobandi Islamic scholar, Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhalwi.
His grandson Maulana Saad Kandhalwi, the current head of the sect, faces criminal charges for organizing the gathering and giving sermons trashing virus precautions.
Across India, there are 2301 coronavirus cases, including 56 deaths.