AGENCIES, New Delhi: As a large religious gathering in Delhis Nizamuddin area has emerged as a coronavirus hotspot linked to 128 cases across India and seven deaths, a Union Home Ministry advisory has warned states about members of the Tablighi Jamaat being potential carriers of COVID-19.
Defying all precautions, thousands had gathered at Markaz Nizamuddin, the Delhi headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, for an event between March 8 and March 10. They included members from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Many of them remained in the building in Nizamuddin in South Delhi, while several Indian and foreign members travelled across the country. A nationwide effort is on to track down every member.
In its letter on March 28 (Saturday), the Home Ministry said all foreign delegates, who were on tourist visa, should be screened and reported. “It is advised that each foreigner who is a part of any Tablighi team may be thoroughly screened in the context of COVID-19 and quarantined or hospitalized, if so required. Else if such foreigner is found to be free from COVID-19, then he should be immediately deported by the first available flights,” said the Home Ministry letter addressed to state chief secretaries and police chiefs.
“Till that time, such person must be confined and quarantined by his host organization,” the advisory said.
The ministry asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to caution Markaz Nizamuddin and “ensure that those who are promoting missionary activities on the strength of tourist visa are treated as visa violators. They must not be allowed to conduct Tabligh activities on tourist visa”.
According to the ministry’s records, about 2,100 foreigners have come to India since January 1 and have been associated with Tablighi Jamaat activities in different parts of the country. Many of them have tested coronavirus positive.
According to government officials, the Prime Minister’s Office has directed the foreign ministry to get in touch with missions abroad and ask them to stop granting tourist visas to those likely to use it for Tablighi Jamaat activities.
“Specific instructions have been given to the Ministry of External Affairs to ensure that details regarding place of stay and return ticket as well as financials of applicants are examined carefully before they are granted tourist visas,” a senior functionary in the PM’s office told news channel NDTV.
“Foreign teams of Tabligh Jamaat who are on tour to the hinterland of India appear to be potential carriers of COVID-19 in the country. Recently, some members on tour in district Erode (Tamil Nadu) and eight Indonesian nationals who were part of a team in Hyderabad (Telangana) were tested positive for COVID-19. Possibility of some members staying at TJ headquarters (Banglewali Masjid, Nizamuddin, New Delhi) carrying COVID-19 cannot be ruled out,” the Home Ministry letter said.