Terming the Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place mid-March in Delhi's Nizamuddin West "highly irresponsible", chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said 24 of the 89 active coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-infected people in the Capital were those who were part of the religious gathering earlier this month.
Kejriwal also warned that the number of positive cases in Delhi could go up further in two-three days as 431 of over 1,500 persons evacuated from the Nizamuddin area till Tuesday had started showing Covid-19 like symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.
In a digital address to the media, the chief minister talked of strict action against his officers if they were found negligent in performing their duties. The administration of the markaz has alleged inaction on the part of the district magistrate and the sub-divisional magistrate (south-east) for failing to evacuate people on time. It alleged that the revenue officials did not issue e-passes for its vehicles, as a result of which a large number of guests had to stay put in the building.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) blamed the Delhi Police and the organisers of the markaz and sought strong action by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
"Strong action should be taken against the administrators of the Nizamuddin markaz who organised a three-day religious gathering with thousands of people from March 13-15, when Delhi government orders had clearly forbidden gatherings of more than 200 persons on March 13 itself," Kalkaji MLA Atishi said.
Earlier in the day, Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain said the organisers of the gathering had "committed a grave crime".
The AAP also attacked the Delhi Police for its inaction. "The Delhi Police should have stopped them since they had full information about the event, especially since the Nizamuddin police station shares a boundary wall with the markaz. Strict action needs to be taken against the police officers concerned as well," Atishi said.
Kejriwal said his government had written to lieutenant governor (L-G) Anil Baijal on Monday seeking an FIR against the organisers of the Nizamuddin markaz. To this, the L-G's office later responded with: "The matter has been referred to the police today for appropriate action as per law."
"A total of 1,548 people has been evacuated over the past two days. Of them, 431 people were found to be symptomatic and were directly sent to the hospitals. A total of 1,107 were asymptomatic and so, were sent to the government's quarantine centres. Organising such a gathering was extremely wrong. Imagine how many people may have contracted the virus since several persons returned to other states from the markaz. What happened was highly irresponsible," Kejriwal said.
The chief minister also cited an empty Vatican and Mecca to urge people not to gather. He appealed to religious leaders not to hold any such gatherings to avoid the spread of Covid-19, which he said was still in the local transmission stage in Delhi.
"This is the time of Navratri and temples are usually crowded with worshippers. But everyone is following the lockdown and not crowding these places of worship. Gurudwaras and even mosques are empty. Everyone is offering prayers in their homes. But if cases like this (Nizamuddin) emerge then Delhi government will have to resort to strict action," he said.
According to an analysis of the total number of Covid-19 cases in Delhi by the city administration, of a total of 97 cases so far, 41 are of those who returned from abroad, 24 are from the Nizamuddin markaz and 22 are mostly family and friends who came in contact with those who returned from abroad.
"For the remaining 10 cases, we are checking the nature of transmission. Further, of the 97 cases, two have died, five have recovered and been released, one is out of the country. So, we currently have 89 active cases in which one patient is serious and is on ventilator support. Two others are on oxygen. Eighty-six patients are stable," the chief minister said.