Five devotees of the United Kingdom unit of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) have died of Covid-19 while it reported 21 cases in the Greater London area.
An ISKCON devotee for over three decades, Rameshvara Das, in his mid-seventies, was among those who died recently. Another devotee Dhananjaya Das, one of the first to join ISKCON in the UK, has been hospitalised due to Covid-19, while many others are in a critical condition.
The UK unit of ISKCON has over 15,000 members. It has been alleged that the virus spread among the devotees when 1,000 of them gathered for the funeral of another devotee on 12 March.
Praghosa Das, the chair of ISKCON's Governing Body Commission of UK, said that no restrictions were in place in the United Kingdom at the time and on 15 March, when a memorial meet was held.
He added that all ISKCON temples were shut on 16 March, a week before Johnson announced a lockdown.
"In hindsight, I think we would all agree now that it shouldn't have gone ahead. But it's easy to be wise after the event. We didn't know then what we know now," Praghosa said.
He acknowledged that while there have been records of 21 reported cases from the religious group so far, it is estimated that more than 100 devotees in the UK may likely be infected.
"Please do not be harsh on the devotees in the UK yatra. They didn't deliberately do something they shouldn't have done. They thought they were following everything they had to follow. So please wish them the best, pray for them," he added.
The infections within the ISKCON community in the UK are close to the Tablighi Jamaat case held at Nizamuddin in Delhi, attended by some 1,800 people. At least 1,445 participants were screened positive for coronavirus.