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India links virus cases to religious gathering

NEW DELHI

A neighborhood in the Indian capital where a religious sect is headquartered has been sealed off from outsiders after police evacuated more than 1,000 people believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus during a religious gathering earlier this month before the government imposed the world’s largest lockdown.

Police said on Tuesday that hundreds of people, many of them foreign nationals, carried the virus to several other parts of India after attending a mosque in the crowded majority-Muslim enclave of Nizamuddin West.

Paramedics have transported hundreds of Muslim worshippers to nearby quarantine facilities. Officials say at least 300 people have symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

Officials in other Indian states raced to confine others who attended the Nizamuddin mosque.

India has 1,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across the country, including 32 deaths, a quarter of which have been linked to the gathering.

A 21-day long nationwide lockdown that began last week has resulted in the suspension of trains and airline services and effectively kept 1.3 billion Indians at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies.

The overall number of known cases in India is small compared with the United States, Italy and China, but health experts say India could be weeks away from a huge surge that could overwhelm its already strained public health system.

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