Food being distributed among poor and needy people during the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, in New Delhi on March 31, 2020.
Food being distributed among poor and needy people during the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, in New Delhi on March 31, 2020. |IANS

India reports three more COVID-19 deaths, 146 new cases

By Sonny Abraham/NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, March 31, 2020

India today reported three more deaths due to coronavirus (COVID-19), taking the toll to 35, and 146 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 1397, even as serious concern has been raised by the details of a religious congregation held in the capital in mid-March, some of the participants of which have been confirmed as positive cases.

Many of the participants of that three-day event have since returned to their homes in different states and, after Telangana reported late last night that six of them had died and several more had tested positive for COVID-19, there is worry that the attendees may have infected many of their contacts.

In figures put out late this evening by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the number of 35 deaths does not include the six deaths announced by the Telangana Chief Minister's Office (CMO) last night.

Of the total 35 deaths so far, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number at nine, followed by six in Gujarat, three each in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, two each in Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal, and one each in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

The total number of 1,397 cases includes the 35 deaths and 124 patients who have been cured and discharged from hospitals, which meant there were 1,238 active cases of the virus in the country as of this morning. The total includes 49 foreigners.

Of the total 1,397 cases, Kerala accounted for the highest at 234, followed by 216 in Maharashtra, 101 in Uttar Pradesh, 97 in Delhi, 83 in Karnataka, 79 in Telangana, 74 each in Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, 73 in Gujarat, 54 in Jammu & Kashmir, 47 in Madhya Pradesh, 41 in Punjab, 40 each in Andhra Pradesh and Haryana, 26 in West Bengal, 15 in Bihar, 13 each in Chandigarh and Ladakh, 10 in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, seven each in Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, five in Goa, three each Himachal Pradesh and Odisha, and one each in Manipur, Mizoram and Puducherry.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said today that the Government was committed to identifying, isolating and quarantining the COVID-19-positive Tabligh Jamaat (TJ) workers in India after their congregation in Nizamuddin in Delhi.

An official press release said the MHA had shared details of TJ workers in India with all States on March 21 after COVID-19-positive cases surfaced in Telangana.

So far, 1339 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been shifted to Narela, Sultanpuri and Bakkarwala quarantine facilities as well as to hospitals, it said.

"The swift action was taken with a view to identify, isolate and quarantine TJ workers who might be COVID-19-positive. Instructions were also issued by MHA to Chief Secretaries and DGsP of all States as well as CP, Delhi. The advisories were reiterated by the DIB to all State DGsP on March 28 and 29," the release said.

Meanwhile, TJ workers staying in the Markaz in Nizamuddin, Delhi, were also persuaded for medical screening by State authorities and Police. By March 29, nearly 162 TJ workers were medically screened and shifted to quarantine facilities. So far, 1339 Tabligh Jamaat workers have been shifted to Narela, Sultanpuri and Bakkarwala quarantine facilities as well as to LNJP, RGSS, GTB, DDU Hospitals and AllMS, Jhajjar. Rest of them are being currently medically screened for COVID-19 infections, it said.

"Usually, all the foreign nationals visiting India as a part of Tabligh team come on the strength of tourist visa. MHA had already issued guidelines that they should not indulge in missionary work on tourist visa. State Police would be examining categories of visas of all these foreign TJ workers and take further action in case of violation of visa conditions," the release said.

Tabligh Jamaat headquarter (Markaz) is located in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Devout Muslims from across the country and also from foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. Some also move out in groups to different parts of the country for Tabligh activities. This is a continuous process throughout the year, the release said.

On March 21 , approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign national were staying in the Markaz. In addition, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/PoIice across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt, the release added.

Another cause for worry for the government is the large numbers of migrant workers who have, in the wake of the 21-day lockdown imposed across the country from March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus, have left the big cities and industrial centres for their homes in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and so on.

At one stage, in the past few days, there were hundreds of workers who had left on foot from Delhi and other places for these paces on foot. Later, there were scenes of large crowds that had gathered at points like the Inter-State Bus Terminals in Delhi in the hope of getting a bus to make the journey.

Since then, the Centre has made it clear to the States that they must ensure that thre is no movement of people across cities or on the highways so that the lockdown achieves its purpose of stopping transmission of the virus.

District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police were made personally responsible for implementation of these directions which have been issued under the Disaster Management Act.

The Centre also advised the States to make adequate arrangements for food and shleter for the poor and needy people, including migrant labourers, at the place of their work.

States have been also told to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut. House Rent should not be demanded from the labourers for this period. Action should be taken against those who are asking labourers or students to vacate the premises, the Centre said.

As a follow-up, the Centre today issued detailed guidelines on the handling of the migrant workers at their place of work as well as those who are in transit on their way to their homes and those who have already reached their destinations.

The workers had decided to leave for home because the lockdown and the resultant closure of thousands of small and big businesses, has left them without jobs and without money to pay rent or buy food.

The Centre has pointed out that the congregation of migrant workers at bus stations or at state borders may make them susceptible to COVID-19 inefection. They, in turn, could carry the infection to far-flung rural localities, where it would be difficult to track them and their contacts.

The advisory contains guidelines on screening of workers wherever they are, at their place of work, or in transit or in their villages, including quarantine for those with symptoms or those who are above 60 years of age and who have co-morbidities. Some of the others, depending on the symptoms shown by them, could be asked to undergo home quarantine for 14 days.

The advisory also includes directions of establishment of quarantine centres for workers who are on their way home and for those who have already reached their villages.