Islamabad admin quarantines UC after 5 more Tableeghi Jamaat members test positive

Updated March 23, 2020

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The five-day moot takes place at Raiwind Tableeghi Markaz. — AP/File
The five-day moot takes place at Raiwind Tableeghi Markaz. — AP/File

The capital administration on Monday placed Islamabad's union council of Kot Hathial under quarantine after six members of the Tableeghi Jamaat residing in the area tested positive for coronavirus.

The development comes as four people in Sindh and two Palestinians tested positive for the virus after attending the Tableeghi Jamaat congregation in Raiwind — comprising tens of thousands of people — which was held from March 11 to 15 near Lahore.

It wasn't immediately clear if the Jamaat members who tested positive in Islamabad had attended the Raiwind Ijtima (congregation).

The six patients were part of a 13-member Tableeghi Jamaat delegation — including six Kyrgyzstan nationals and seven Pakistanis — that was staying at a mosque in Kot Hathial in the capital's Bhara Kahu area.

After a man from Kyrgyzstan who was a part of the preaching team tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, samples were sent for testing of the other members of the delegation as well.

The test results of five people came out positive on Monday, said Assistant Superintendent Police (ASP) Bhara Kahu Hamza Amanullah.

He said tests are also being carried out of the seven other members of the Jamaat, which included a madrassah student.

After the confirmation of the cases, the administration locked down Kot Hathial and deployed police at its entry and exit points.

"The entire area has been turned into a quarantine," ASP Amanullah said in a statement, adding that the district administration will get tests done of the residents of the locality.

A spokesperson for the Islamabad police said the Jamaat members who tested positive were quarantined in the mosque they were residing in.

A video provided to DawnNewsTV showed a police official announcing on a microphone that the mosque was being sealed for 14 days and requesting residents of the area to not visit it.

ASP Amanullah said all shops in the neighbourhood except grocery stores, milk shops and bakeries have been closed. The Bhara Kahu Bazaar will also be closed once orders in this regard are issued by the district administration, he added.

Many foreign delegations had arrived in Pakistan to attend the Tableeghi Jamaat congregation in Raiwind.

On Saturday, Gaza's first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed and according to a diplomat from the strip, both Palestinian men contracted the virus while visiting Pakistan to attend the Raiwind Ijtima.

Quoting a diplomat, National Public Radio journalist Diaa Hadid said on Monday that the men were in Pakistan to attend the congregation. She further said that the duo met a lot of people in Pakistan and then made their way home via airplanes and buses.

The United Nations has warned that a Covid-19 outbreak in Gaza could be disastrous, given the high poverty rates and weak healthcare infrastructure in the coastal strip that is under Israeli blockade.

Gaza’s health ministry said the two who tested positive had been held in quarantine since their return from Pakistan on Thursday and had not interacted with the wider population.

Raiwind moot held despite fears

Even though the fast spread of coronavirus in Pakistan had become a known fact at that point, the Raiwind Ijtima had gone on as planned. Punjab government officials had said at the time that all their "pleas" for postponing the congregation in view of the threat of Covid-19 spread had been rejected by the organisers.

While Pakistan has taken some measures to avoid a wider spread of coronavirus, no concrete steps have been taken to temporarily shut down daily and Friday congregations at mosques anywhere except Islamabad.

The capital territory's police on March 22 imposed Section 144 to ban all activities in mosques after sealing two in the Bhara Kahu area.

For the past two weeks, President Arif Alvi and Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Qibla Ayaz have suggested that members of the public should not go out for Friday prayers if they feel unwell.

Even now, when Sindh is under lockdown for 15 days, no express instructions about daily and Friday prayer congregations were issued by the provincial government.

However, the Defence Housing Authority administration had earlier announced that mosques will be shut in their communities.