Govt scrambles to contain crisis at Nizamuddin after six coronavirus deaths

People who showed coronavirus symptoms being taken to various hospitals from Nizamuddin in New Delhi on Tuesday Photo: Dalip Kumar
As the clear blue skies reverberated with the sounds of the azaan (call for prayer), men lined up wearing protective masks outside the Markaz in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin — the new hotspot of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) — waiting to be escorted to quarantine facilities.

By noon, nine buses with drivers geared up in hazardous materials (hazmat) suits and protective helmets had escorted around 300 people to various quarantine facilities across the national capital.

“One bus does not take more than 34 people, so that there is distance between them...We are waiting for more DTC buses to come in some time,” said Lokender Talan, assistant sub-inspector of police.

The deserted road usually teeming with crowds and traffic has become one of the epicentres of the pandemic in the national capital with only police and border security forces manning the entrance to the dargah.

They make sure that people queue up properly and maintain distance between each other. A tent has been pitched at some distance from the main road with medical staff to examine the symptoms of people and direct them accordingly to a quarantine facility.

“We don’t know how many more people are inside the mosque, but everyone will be taken for testing,” a police official said.

These developments came after six persons, who attended a religious prayer meeting from March 13 to 15 at Markaz, the international headquarters of an Islamic missionary, succumbed to Covid-19, sparking fears of community transmission of the disease. Around 2,000 people were stranded in the mosque after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, and 300 persons had shown Covid-19 symptoms, reports said.

Police and paramilitary personnel have cordoned the area and evacuated hundreds of people suspected to have contracted the virus. While many have been sent to quarantine facilities like the one at the nearby JLN Stadium.

Some of those who attended hailed from other countries including Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to police personnel posted outside the mosque. It is feared that many of those infected during the religious event caused the transmission of the virus in different parts of the country.

“...We being law abiding entity are more concerned and aware and in compliance of all orders of central and state government. We are cooperating with the appropriate authorities and awaiting requisite permission to vacate the persons from Markaz,” Moulana Yusuf said in a statement on behalf of the Markaz Tabligh Jamat.

To control the situation, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has taken up a drive to sanitise the entire neighbourhood. A municipal van went about showering the exteriors of each house in Nizamuddin West with disinfectant. However, the basti side was left untouched. “The roads are too small and narrow for us to take the vehicle there,” a municipal worker said.

The authorities have enforced a complete lockdown in Nizamuddin basti with police and BSF deployed in the narrow alleys to keep a tab on the situation and ensure that there is no unnecessary movement.

Sitting at the main entrance of Nizamuddin West, Saba Khatun (name changed), a resident of the basti, says there are many galis (alleys) that can lead you outside. “There are ways we know...Though we are only coming out to buy supplies or for some important work,” Khatun said.

It is time soon for the afternoon prayers and as the resident of Nizamuddin West Fauzia Shah puts it, “Now it is not a call to come and pray but a call to pray at home.”

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