The drivers, who ferried pilgrims from a gurdwara in Nanded in Maharashtra to Punjab in buses, might have spread the coronavirus infection among the travellers, Maharashtra minister Ashok Chavan said on Saturday.
Several pilgrims from Punjab, who had stayed at the Gurdwara Langar Sahib in Nanded, tested positive for coronavirus after reaching their home state.
Mr Chavan also the drivers might have carried the infection to Nanded which had no COVID-19 cases a week ago. The number of cases has shot up to 26 now.
"The drivers who came from Punjab to ferry the stranded pilgrims in Nanded might have spread the infection here and during their return journey (to Punjab)," he said in a Facebook live session.
"Had the infection originated in Nanded then why not a single coronavirus positive case was reporters here earlier?" the PWD Minister questioned.
An MLA from the district, MrChavan is also the Guardian Minister of Nanded, which houses Gurdwara Langar Sahib and Gurdwara Hazur Sahib, also known as Takht Hazuri Sahib Sachkhand, which is among the holiest Sikh shrines in the country.
Mr Chavan said a total of 78 buses with two drivers each had reached Nanded on April 26 and the drivers stayed there for two days.
"They ate food in 'langar' (community kitchen). There is a possibility that the infection spread then," he said. Mr Chavan also said that the drivers who had travelled to Punjab from Maharashtra on April 23 were found infected only after they made a return journey, which indicates that the source of the coronavirus infection was not Nanded but somewhere outside its boundary.
"Moreover, none of the pilgrims had complained about COVID-19 like symptoms earlier during their stay in gurdwara. Had any such complaint made treatment would have been provided to them immediately," he said, adding that the situation in Nanded is under control.
Twenty people currently residing in Gurdwara Langar Sahib have tested coronavirus positive, an official said earlier in the day.
As per the Punjab government figures, at least 115 of the over 3,500 pilgrims who returned from the Nanded gurdwara have tested positive for coronavirus.