The world is going through a tough time due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries are under lockdown, including India in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic. On 24 March, the government of India announced a 21 day nationwide lockdown. The importance of social and physical distancing during the lockdown has been highly stressed in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Recently, the Nizamuddin Markaz news has come to public attention to the whole nation as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has increased dramatically after the religious gathering that took place at Delhi’s Nizamuddin.
Conditions of the Indian government’s lockdown order
The 21-day nationwide lockdown was implemented as a preventive measure, limiting the free movement of the 1.3 billion population of India in an effort to curtail pandemic in the country. It was announced after a 14-hour voluntary public curfew on 22 March, followed by enforcement of a series of regulations in the country's COVID-19 affected regions. The lockdown was placed when the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India had reached 500. The general guidelines of maintaining social distancing were issued by the government which should have been followed by all citizens for public safety and to curtail further spread of the virus which has caused thousands of deaths globally.
The Delhi Hazarat Nizamuddin disaster? A coronavirus hotspot?
On March 13th, around 3500 people gathered at the Nizamuddin Markaz as part of a religious gathering. This gathering was attended by people from many foreign nations, including China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand. On March 16th, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced the ban of religious, social or political gatherings of more than 50 in Delhi until March. The attendees at Nizamuddin Markaz continued to stay put.
On March 20th, it was discovered that10 Indonesians who attended the gathering in Delhi test positive in Telangana. Three days later, 1500 people vacated the Markaz returned to their respective states while many continued to stay. After the lockdown was announced, the Nizamuddin police asked the remaining people at the Markaz to vacate the area. It would be wrong to say that local authorities were unaware of the gathering and the remaining 2000 people in the Markaz. The issue came to the forefront when positive cases related to the Markaz gathering emerged in different states.
After the matter came to light, the Centre and the Delhi government swung into action to trace the congregation attendees. Later, six of the attendees from Telangana and one from Jammu and Kashmir died due to coronavirus. Nationals from the UK and France are among 281 foreigners out of 1,830 people who were found by the police during the last two days at the Markaz that became a key source of coronavirus spread in the country, officials said. The region of Nizamuddin Markaz has since then become marked as a hotspot of the coronavirus.
Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, on Tuesday, said that 1,548 people had been evacuated from Nizamuddin Markaz, of which 441 were hospitalized after they showed coronavirus symptoms. In a digital press conference, the Chief Minister said that 1,107 people who had attended the religious congregation in Nizamuddin West had been quarantined. He said that out of 97 cases of coronavirus in the city, 24 were those who took part in the congregation earlier this month.
Kejriwal slammed the organizers of the religious gathering, saying that it was "highly irresponsible" on their part to hold such an event at a time when thousands have died in other countries due to the pandemic. He added that the government ha already written to Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal recommending the registration of an FIR against the organizers.
"Strong action should be taken against the administrators of the Nizamuddin Markaz who organized a 3-day religious gathering, with 1000s of people from March 13-15, when Delhi government orders had expressly forbidden gatherings or more than 200 persons on 13th March itself," the Kalkaji MLA said in a tweet.
A notification by the Delhi government, issued on 12 March stated that anyone with a travel history from COVID-19 affected countries has to self-isolate. Atishi questioned why the administrators of the Markaz did not ensure the isolation of residents coming from those countries.
The incident has shed light on the conflicting issues of democracy and secularism, sparking heated debate. A Twitter war broke out with criticism of those who attended the gathering for blatantly ignoring a government order and prioritizing a religious event over a major health threat which seriously jeopardizes the health and safety of the general Indian public.
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