New Delhi: India witnessed the maximum number of coronavirus COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours (March 31 midnight to April 1 midnight) with 437 new infections reported from different parts of the country taking the total to 1834 with 41 deaths, according to the latest government update. Efforts to trace hundreds of invitees to the Nizamuddin Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in New Delhi, which is emerging as one of the coronavirus hotspots in India, continued as a nationwide hunt across states have identified more than 6,000 people who attended the congregation.
According to the ministry officials, cases have increased largely due to Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which took place in mid-March, and therefore technically it does not show a national trend. They urged people to follow guidelines during the lockdown period and avoid congregations, including religious gatherings.
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi were among the places to report a large number of new cases.
In Delhi, the authorities said coronavirus cases have risen to 152, including 53 who attended the Nizamuddin congregation, while the number in Maharashtra increased by 33 to 335 on Wednesday, including 30 in Mumbai alone. The tally can increase further as nearly 5,000 quarantined persons are in the high-risk category, according to the state government. The state reported six deaths on Wednesday, taking the total to 16, maximum in the country.
In Tamil Nadu, 110 people who returned from Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi have tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total cases in the state to 234. At least 515 persons have been identified in the state for having attended the Nizamuddin meet with at least 59 of them quarantined. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said 1,131 men of about 1,500 people who went for the event have returned to the state.
In Telangana, 50 of the 57 positive cases had attended the gathering, while the state authorities have identified and quarantined at least 840 people linked to the event. The search is on for 160 others.
In Delhi also, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said 2,361 people were evacuated from the Nizamuddin congregation, out of which 617 have been admitted to hospitals for showing COVID-19 symptoms while the rest are quarantined. Several of those quarantined at Delhi Tughlakabad also created a ruckus at the centre by spitting on doctors and their caretakers as well as refusing to be locked down by running around the building
In an effort to keep a track of all those quarantined in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said authorities are tracking over 25,000 mobile phones of those suspected to have coronavirus to check their movement.
In Karnataka, at least 50 foreigners have been quarantined after they were found to have attended the congregation while 12 others are said to have left the country. The state authorities have also identified 342 Indians who had attended the event, out of which nearly 200 have been quarantined.
The Uttar Pradesh government has also ordered 569 people to be quarantined for having attended the congregation, while Gujarat has so far quarantined at least 85 and a massive manhunt is underway as nearly 1,500 from the state have been found to have participated in the religious gathering.
The Uttarakhand government has also identified 26 such people but said they were yet to return from Delhi. In Rajasthan, the government officials said 538 persons could have travelled to various parts of the state after attending the event. The state reported 27 new cases of confirmed infection on Wednesday, including 11 who attended the Nizamuddin event, taking its overall tally to 120.
At least 81 Tablighi Jamaat returnees are suspected to be in Bihar, out of which 30 have been identified, while Assam has now had 13 confirmed cases of the deadly virus infection all of whom had attended the Tablighi Jamaat meet.
According to the Assam government, there are 347 people in the state who had attended the congregation, of which 230 have been located so far. At least seven COVID-19 deaths so far have had links to the congregation -- six in Telangana and one in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday reported seven new positive cases, taking the total number in the Union Territory to 62. Besides, a total of 17,041 cases are under surveillance there.
In West Bengal, three more COVID-19 patients have died, taking the death count in the state to seven, while the state government traced 71 people, including foreigners, who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said so far 37 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state.
Andhra Pradesh reported 67 new confirmed cases, taking its total to 111, with all fresh cases being related to the Delhi congregation.
The Centre on Wednesday also asked all states and Union Territories to launch on a "war footing" the contact tracing of all participants of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin, which has emerged as the coronavirus hotspot.
In a video conference with chief secretaries and DGPs of all states and Union Territories (UTs), Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba also asked them to take action against foreigners, who participated in the missionary activities of the Tablighi Jamaat, for violation of visa conditions.
Prime Minister Narendra will also hold a video conference with all chief ministers on Thursday during which issues such as ways to contain the spread of COVID-19, movement of migrants and contact tracing of Tablighi Jamat participants are likely to come up for discussion, sources said.
Meanwhile, the armed forces have also made available over 9,000 hospital beds and more than 8,500 doctors and support staff across the country to deal with the rising cases of coronavirus infection. Indian Railways has also converted some of its coaches into isolation wards.
Notably, fresh cases of infection reported on Wednesday included some doctors and a police constable as well.
Over 5,000 of those identified attended the congregation have reportedly been quarantined in hospitals across states, but efforts are on to trace another 2,000. The list includes foreigners as well, while some of those identified by the state authorities are yet to return from Delhi to their respective native places.
As law enforcement agencies tightened their grip around Maulana Saad of the Nizamuddin Markaz, he released an audiotape for his followers saying he is in self-quarantine. In the audio, Maulana Saad said, "I am in self-quarantine in Delhi as advised by the doctors and appeal to all Jamaat wherever they are in the country to follow the directives of the law ."
"The pandemic is due to sins of human beings committed by them," he added while advising his followers to remain indoors and adhere to the directives of the government and not to assemble anywhere.
His lawyer Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi told IANS, "Maulana Saad has asked every person of Tablighi Jamat to approach the authorities of their respective districts and extend cooperation to them. In particular, they should present themselves for the medical examination for their safety as well for the safety of others," adding "Full cooperation is being extended to all the authorities."
(With Agency Inputs)