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Police cordon off Nizamuddin West area as people show COVID-19 symptoms, over 200 kept in isolation


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Police and paramilitary personnel cordoned off a major area in Nizamuddin West in south Delhi while over 200 people have been kept in isolation in hospitals after several people who took part in a religious congregation there earlier this month showed symptoms of coronavirus, officials said on Monday.
Over 2,000 delegates, including from Indonesia and Malaysia, attended the congregation of Tabligh-e-Jamaat, a Muslim religious organisation, from March 1-15, officials said. However, locals said that a large number of people continued to stay at the Jamaat's 'Markaj' (Centre) even after this period.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ordered an FIR against the cleric who was leading the congregation, sources said.
Delhi Police, CRPF officials and medical teams went to the locality late on Sunday night after reports that a large number of people were showing symptoms of the disease, the officials said.
More than 200 people showing symptoms of COVID-19 were admitted to different hospitals by Delhi's Health Department, police said.
"As many as 85 people were brought to LNJP Hospital on Sunday from Nizamuddin and 68 today, so a total of 153 are admitted in isolation wards and being tested for infection," LNJP Medical Superintendent Dr J C Passey said.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) Devesh Srivastava, however, said around 300-400 people had taken part in the congregation.
"There were around 300-400 people who were part of the gathering. We were approached by the health department after they suspected them of having symptoms related to coronvirus," he said.
"We have isolated the Markaj building (of Tabligh-e-Jamaat) from rest of the area where the gathering had taken place. We are assisting the health department in taking out people for check-ups, Srivastava said.
Another senior police official said, a notice has been served to the organisation for violating prohibitory orders and restrictions imposed owing to the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Delhi Government had banned religious, social, cultural and political gatherings as well as protests comprising more than 50 people till March 31 in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
The entire area, which includes residences and the headquarters of the Tabligh-e-Jamaat was cordoned off.
The joint Delhi Police-CRPF-medical team has been checking people and shifting them to designated hospitals for quarantining, the officials said.
The police have been using drones for surveillance in order to check any violations.
Buses have been kept in readiness for shifting people to quarantine centres. Hotels in the area that had housed people from the congregation have been sealed.
Alarm bells started to ring after a man in his 60s who had attended the congregation succumbed to COVID-19 in Srinagar last week.
According to officials, there were several smaller congregations culminating in the big meeting at the headquarters of the organisation which shares its wall with the Nizamuddin police station and is adjacent to the famous shrine of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya.
The congregation was attended by preachers from several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Dubai, Uzbekistan and Malaysia. About 600 Indians from different parts of the country also participated.
The Indian members of the group left on trains and flights. Contacts of a few cases that were identified in several parts of the country were traced to the congregation, the officials said.
Nearly 30,000 people reside in Nizamuddin west and Nizamuddin Basti area.
Responding to a question on several people being quarantined in Nizamuddin after they showed symptoms of coronavirus infection, Joint Secretary in the ministry of health Lav Agarwal said authorities initiate action as per the protocol wherever larger number of cases get reported.
Be it in Nizamuddin or any part of the country, our teams go and take action as part of the containment strategy, he said, adding the government was focusing on hotspots from where larger number of cases are being reported and working in tandem with states to implement rigorous contact-tracing, community surveillance and other containment strategies to break the chain of transmission.
Abdul Bari Masood, a resident of Nizamuddin West, said the people were stranded in the Markaj due to the janta curfew on March 22 and later due to the lockdown on March 24.
Yasmin Kidwai, the ward councillor, said a congregation of so many people was a ticking bomb.
"We could have avoided this situation if the government had been vigilant earlier. Out of the 2000, over 300 are foreigners which could have been denied permission to come here," Kidwai said.
She said the corporation has been asked to repeatedly sanitise the area and "the commissioner working closely with me to now do an intensive door to door sanitisation of the area".
Some 200 people were taken to different hospitals yesterday, she said.
Not one has tested positive. We can only keep our fingers crossed. This is however not the time to be critical but support the efforts of an over-stretched administration, she said.
A nationwide lockdown was imposed on the movement of people for 21 days from Wednesday to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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First Published: Mar 30 2020 | 10:32 PM IST

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