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Thursday, Apr 02, 2020 12:30 [IST]

Last Update: Thursday, Apr 02, 2020 06:53 [IST]

Focus on the hotspots

The Delhi-based headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin, south Delhi, has suddenly become the latest Covid-2019 hotspot in the country. A congregation at the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat saw a few thousand participants — even when it had become clear that social distancing norms were essential to battle the pandemic, and the Delhi government banned gatherings of more than 50.
The alarm bells started ringing when a 65-year-old man from Kashmir died on March 26. He had attended a religious gathering at Nizamuddin sometime in mid-March, which saw a congregation of over 1,800 people, including many from foreign nations. Officially, 1,033 people have been evacuated from the seminary, 334 hospitalised and 700 quarantined; 24 who attended the meeting have tested positive for the virus and at least 10 have died. The authorities have sealed the seminary’s premises and contact tracing efforts are underway.
Many are questioning why so many people were allowed to gather at one place even after the PM ordered a nationwide lockdown from the midnight of March 24 and banned mass gatherings. The Jamaat has issued a detailed statement where it has underlined that it had got in touch with the authorities and sought their help in evacuating the stranded followers. It has said the country observed the janata curfew on March 22. The same day, the Centre suspended all passenger and suburban trains. This was followed by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal ordering a citywide lockdown from March 23. Then on March 24, the PM announced a total lockdown.
While a thorough probe may be needed about the sequence of events, both the organisers of the gathering, and the local administration, which allowed such a gathering to take place, exhibited a high degree of irresponsibility.
The Nizamuddin case underlines why it is important to focus on high-risk clusters. The government has done well in identifying 10 such locations — which have witnessed a high number of cases, and where the possibility of spread is high. It is important to expand the focus and bring in more rural locations within its ambit. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which send migrants to the cities, will now witness their return home; if even one of them is tested positive, the possibility of the infection spreading to the local population cannot be ruled out (and given the photographs of the rush home that was seen, it will be next to impossible to conduct a contact-tracing exercise). The Nizamuddin experience is also a cue for Indian health authorities to aggressively expand testing (and not stop at contact-tracing and quarantining), at least in these clusters. The possibility of infected asymptomatic individuals passing on the virus must be ruled out. The next step in India’s battle has to be a focus on these high-risk locations.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi