Experts dispute chief minister Chouhan’s claim that Jamaat congregation spiked COVID-19 cases in the central Indian state. PHOTO: ANADOLU AGENCY/FILE

'No data to link Tablighi Jamaat to COVID-19 spread in India'

Experts dispute chief minister Chouhan’s claim that Jamaat congregation spiked COVID-19 cases in central Indian state

Anadolu Agency April 13, 2020
NEW DELHI: Three days after Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh blamed Tablighi Jamaat congregation for a spike in cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 in his state, officials and experts on Monday disputed his claim.

The state has emerged as one of the hotspots in India, reporting 564 cases with over 50 deaths so far. The twin historic cities of Indore and provincial capital Bhopal have recorded 281 and 131 positive cases respectively. As many as 30 people have died in Indore and three in Bhopal.

On April 11, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video conference that the spike in cases was due to people, who had returned from Delhi after attending a Tablighi Jamaat congregation from March 13-15 at its headquarters, known as Markaz in Nizamuddin locality.

“The problem had increased in Madhya Pradesh, like the rest of the country, because of those who had returned from Markaz,” he said.

The provincial government officials and experts, however, said that it was yet to be convincingly proved if attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat event were responsible for the transmission of the virus in Bhopal and Indore.

So far, 20 members of the Jamaat who had returned from the congregation have tested positive in Bhopal.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on phone, Rahul Rokade of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College in Indore said they have no data to link the spread of the pandemic in Bhopal and Indore to Tablighi Jamaat.

“We cannot say that members from Jamaat led to a spike in corona cases in Madhya Pradesh,” he said.

Senior government officials infected

Local media reports blamed three senior government officials for spreading the virus, by attending meetings and avoiding social distancing despite showing symptoms of the disease.

Principal Secretary (Health) Pallavi Jain Govil, Additional Director Veena Sinha and Deputy Director Virendra Kumar Chaudhary tested positive for the virus on April 4.

Reports said that sons of both Govil and Sinha had returned from the US. Some media reports suggested that they did not reveal their travel history to authorities.

Both the senior officials are believed to have contracted the virus from their sons. Govil continued attending official meetings even those chaired by the chief minister, despite showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Earlier, Director Health J Vijay Kumar was also tested positive. So far 12 police personnel and their family members have tested positive in capital Bhopal.

On April 7, three Jamaat members tested positive in Indore. In many cases, experts have failed to locate the source of the outbreak, as many patients did not have any travel history.

Chouhan took over as chief minister on March 23 after a high political drama ousting the opposition Congress-led government. He is still to constitute the cabinet.