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647 coronavirus +ve cases across 14 states traced to Tablighi Jamaat: Govt

647 coronavirus +ve cases across 14 states traced to Tablighi Jamaat: Govt

India has recorded 647 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that can be linked to a religious gathering in Delhi's Nizamuddin, which has emerged as a hot spot of the disease in the country, the Union health ministry said on Friday.

These cases were detected in 14 states/Union Territories, namely Andaman and Nicobar Island, Assam, Delhi, Himachal, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the government said.

A March congregation of Islamic missionary group Tablighi Jamaat at its six-storey headquarters has set the alarm bells ringing, with authorities in states launching hectic efforts to trace the footsteps of those who visited Nizamuddin for the gathering and subsequently fanned out across the country.

Twelve deaths due to Covid-19 surfaced in the past 24 hours, Lav Agarwal, the joint secretary of the Union health ministry, said at a press briefing on Friday afternoon, putting the total number of fatalities in the country at 56.

When asked how many of the 12 deaths were linked to the Jamaat congregation, Agarwal said: "It is difficult to ascertain at this point."

The country has registered a total of 2,301 cases, and 336 of them have been reported since Thursday, Agarwal said. He added that 157 patients have recovered from the disease caused by the fast-spreading Sars-CoV-2 virus.

Agarwal added that about three million people downloaded the AarogyaSetu app, developed in public-private partnership to help people in assessing their risk of catching the coronavirus infection.

He asked citizens to support health workers in the backdrop of attacks on doctors conducting door-to-door drives to screen suspected coronavirus patients.

"The Union health minister (Harsh Vardhan) has conveyed that he is concerned over attacks on health workers. Even the Prime Minister has appreciated health workers. Under such challenging circumstances, we should support them in every way possible," Agarwal said.

At the same briefing, Punya Salila Srivastava, joint secretary of the Union home ministry, said the central government has asked states to take strict action against those targeting health workers.

Manoj Murhekar of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said guidelines for rapid antibody diagnostics are likely to be released by Saturday.

India has allowed faster and cheaper antibody tests to check for the coronavirus disease in so-called hot spots -- these show clusters of infections -- of which there are 20 in the country.

Murhekar said India has conducted around 66,000 tests, of which around 8,000 were done on Thursday — the highest in a single day so far.

"Testing has process and guidelines. Unnecessary testing for the sake of confidence building, especially when kits are limited, is not the right strategy. However, if we feel it's needed, testing criteria can be revised. But, so far, no decision has been taken on that," he said, responding to a question on whether India will ramp up testing.

(Inputs and image from hindustantimes.com)

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