LAHORE/LAYYAH: Some 27 members of Tableeghi Jamaat out of 35 screened at the Tableeghi Markaz in Raiwind tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday while another member of the religious outfit put in a quarantine in Layyah stabbed and injured a police officer in a bid to escape.
Around 1,200 people, including over 500 foreigners, were attending the five-day congregation before leaving for three-day, 40-day or four-month preaching missions. They are camped in an open space adjacent to the Markaz.
Earlier, Punjab government officials had requested the organisers to postpone the congregation in view of the virus threat, but they did not pay any heed to it. But when the organisers had a change of heart and stopped the congregation four days ago, the government-announced lockdown had come into effect with no transport and air services available to take them home.
The station house officer (SHO) was injured in Layyah when the Tableeghi Jamaat member attacked him with a knife in an attempt to escape. Later, the police and district administration approached the organisers and with their permission cordoned off the Markaz and no one was allowed to enter or leave the place for the last three days.
A member quarantined in Layyah injures police officer in a bid to escape
On Saturday, the Royal Thai Embassy in Islamabad, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contacted the authorities to evacuate their 50 citizens from the Tableeghi Markaz. The health department conducted screening of the Thai citizens who tested negative for the virus. They were shifted to Islamabad from where they were flown to their country by a private jet.
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Daanish Afzaal told Dawn that they had sealed the Markaz three days ago and started conducting screening of the people there. He said the health authorities had so far screened 35 members residing at the Markaz and alarmingly 27 tested positive for coronavirus. “We are also setting up a quarantine at the Markaz and if the number of patients increases they would be shifted to the Kala Shah Kaku quarantine centre,” Mr Afzaal said.
He said the suspected persons would be self-isolated at Kala Shah Kaku and those who tested positive for coronavirus would be shifted to a field hospital at Expo Centre in Johar Town.
The Layyah administration had gathered all the Tableeghi teams on preaching missions in the district and declared the local Markaz a quarantine centre housing 235 people.
On Sunday, police were informed that some people were trying to escape from the centre. When SHO Mohammad Ashraf Maakhi reached the spot with a team, a Tableeghi Jamaat member stabbed him and escaped.
Police spokesperson sub-inspector Nadeem said the SHO sustained injuries and was shifted to the DHQ Hospital in Layyah, where his condition was stated to be stable.
Police later apprehended the accused from Swabi district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020