India tracks attendees after Muslim event linked to virus cases

India has launched a massive search to track down those who attended an event organised by a Muslim missionary movement after dozens of people test positive for coronavirus and at least seven reportedly die.

Authorities in the Indian capital on Tuesday sealed off the premises of Tablighi Jamaat, accusing it of organising a religious gathering from March 13-15 and ignoring the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Delhi government also asked the police to file a criminal case against the group, one of the country’s oldest Islamic organisations, for flouting guidelines and not maintaining physical distancing.

Authorities said around 2,000 people were found to be staying at Markaz Nizamuddin, the New Delhi headquarters of the group, founded in 1926.

Delhi’s Health Minister Satyender Jain told reporters at least 24 people staying there had tested positive for the coronavirus, while seven people who attended the congregation have reportedly died.

Delhi police on Tuesday said they have filed cases, including criminal conspiracy, against the organisers.

Tablighi Jamaat denied accusations it had broken social distancing laws, saying it was forced to accommodate visitors stranded by the lockdown announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, with just four hours’ notice.

In a press statement, the group said: “A rumour started gaining ground across social media that allegedly people affected with COVID-19 are present in Markaz. It is also being circulated that certain deaths have occurred due to the same.