Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain said on Tuesday that 24 more people who attended a mass gathering at a mosque in Nizamuddin area of the city have tested positive for the coronavirus, ANI reported. As many as seven people who attended the gathering had earlier died of Covid-19 – six in Telangana and one in Kashmir.

Ten more who returned to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have tested positive.

“We are not certain of the number but it is estimated that 1500-1700 people had assembled at Markaz building,” Jain told reporters. “As many as 1,033 people have been evacuated so far – 334 of them have been sent to hospital and [around] 700 sent to quarantine.”

The Delhi health minister said the organisers of the event had committed a serious crime. He said the Disaster Management Act and Contagious Diseases Act was in place in Delhi when the gathering was held. Jain said he has written to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to take strict action against the organisers, and that the Delhi government would file a first information report against them.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday ordered a police case against the mosque administration for endangering hundreds of lives.

As reported previously, thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended the conference that took place on March 9 and 10 in the densely populated Nizamuddin area of Delhi. Ten of the 17 confirmed cases in Tamil Nadu on March 30 were also of people who had participated in the congregation.

The conference was organised by the Tablighi Jamaat preachers at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in Delhi. An Islamic evangelical organisation, the Jamaat, an offshoot of the Deobandi movement, has its presence in several parts of India and countries in South Asia and South-East Asia. Many also fanned out across the country to recruit people after the event, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection at the conference.

Mosque administration claims it did not violate protocol

However, the mosque administration claimed on Tuesday that it had not violated any quarantine protocol, The Indian Express reported. The administration said that a large group of visitors were stuck at the event because the Centre had suspended all passenger train services across the country.

The administration added that a day after the “janata curfew” on March 22, nearly 1,500 preachers managed to leave for their respective destinations, leaving behind around 1,000 visitors “belonging to different states and nationalities inside the markaz”, reported Hindustan Times. A few of these preachers had reportedly started developing symptoms, such as a cough and a high temperature, but no one considered Covid-19, an unidentified member of the markaz said. The group remained cramped due to the lockdown.

Following this, the police issued a notice on March 24 asking the premises to be closed.

The administration added that it had asked a sub-divisional magistrate to issue vehicle passes so that the stranded guests could return home, but this was not granted. The administration also said that after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a “janata curfew” on March 22, the event was discontinued.

“Before the janata curfew could be lifted at 9 pm, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi announced lockdown of Delhi beginning at 6 am on 23rd March 2020 till 31st March 2020, thereby further diminishing any chances of these visitors availing road transport for their journey back home,” the mosque said. “Despite this challenging situation, with the help of Markaz administration, around fifteen hundred visitors left Markaz Nizamuddin by availing whatever meager transport was available.”

The mosque said that a medical team had visited the mosque on March 25 to test the visitors who were still stranded. The Delhi Police sealed the mosque on Monday.