Mass Muslim Event in India Spawns New Cluster of COVID-19 Cases

BenarNews staff
Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur
200331-IN-ID-MY-covid-620.jpg Indian paramedics register Muslims heading for a quarantine facility after they were screened for COVID-19 in New Delhi, March 31, 2020.

Authorities in Indonesia and Malaysia are investigating to determine how many of their citizens may have been infected as part of a new of COVID-19 cluster emerging from a mass Muslim event in New Delhi.

More than 350 people who were removed from a religious center where the event took place in mid-March have been hospitalized, and at least 10 attendees have died after being infected with the coronavirus disease, according to an Agence France-Presse report. The Press Trust of India said around 8,000 people took part in the event.

Indonesians and Malaysians reportedly were among those attending the event hosted by the same Muslim missionary organization, Tablighi Jamaat, whose gathering in Malaysia in late February has been linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases in more than half a dozen countries.

“According to information we have, there are 1,456 Indonesian Tablighi members overseas, 731 of whom are in India,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The event in the Indian capital began on March 13, days before Delhi’s chief minister banned gatherings of more than 50 people to prevent the spread of the virus, according to India Today. Hundreds of people refused to leave the building and got trapped inside after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a three-week nationwide lockdown, which suspended transportation and non-essential movement.

It was not immediately clear whether any Indonesians had attended the New Delhi event or were among those trapped inside the building.

In Malaysia, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah was asked if his countrymen had attended the gathering in India.

“True. We are investigating,” he told reporters in Putrajaya on Tuesday. “[O]bviously there is a high risk for them to attend these gatherings. So we are trying to get more information from our counterpart in India.”

In addition, authorities have identified 87 Malaysians who had traveled to attend a Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Sulawesi, Indonesia, that local officials cancelled at the last minute on March 18, but after 3,000 followers had already arrived.

“We are tracing them as well,” he said.

The Indian and Indonesian events followed a Tablighi Jamaat mass gathering in Kuala Lumpur late last month at the Sri Petaling Mosque that drew about 16,000 people.

The Malaysian government has reported that about half of its 2,766 COVID-19 cases were linked to the gathering. Officials in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam confirmed cases linked to the gathering as well.

Retno said many of the foreigners who planned to attend the event in Sulawesi, including some Malaysians, had returned to their homes while 97 were quarantined after three showed COVID-19 symptoms.


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