New Delhi — A young software engineer working in a Delhi suburb who returned to his hometown in the eastern state of Bihar last month for his wedding may have infected almost 100 people with the coronavirus. The groom himself died with COVID-19 symptoms just two days after the ceremony, which was attended by more 350 friends and family.

The groom, 30, traveled to his hometown of Paliganj in Bihar in the second week of May. He soon began showing symptoms typical of the new coronavirus — fever and diarrhoea — as the June 15 wedding day approached, but he wasn’t tested for the virus and his family reportedly ignored his wishes to postpone the big day. 

“Even though he was feeling unwell by June 14 and wanted the wedding deferred, family heads from both sides advised against it, citing huge financial losses if the arrangements had to be cancelled,” a relative was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.   

A medic in takes a swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19, at Hotel Patliputra Ashok in Patna, in India’s Bihar state, June 20, 2020. Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times/Getty

The groom was given some over-the-counter medicine to bring down his fever, and the families went ahead with the wedding on June 15 as planned. More than 350 guests from his village and his bride’s feasted and celebrated together that day. 

Two days later, the family tried to rush the man to a hospital as his condition continued to deteriorate, but he died on the way. The family quickly cremated him without informing authorities, so he was never tested for the coronavirus, but one of the wedding guests eventually tipped off local authorities. 

While India lifted its strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown at the beginning of June, easing restrictions on businesses and the movement of people, large social gatherings are still banned. Weddings are allowed to have no more than 50 guests. The local government is investigating how the large wedding was even allowed to take place. 

Behind the economy of weddings in India

The groom’s death prompted authorities launch a frenzied effort to test all close relatives of the groom — some of whom had already developed COVID-19 symptoms. Officials said 15 tested positive, but the bride was not among them. 

Authorities then started tracing people to find everyone who came into contact with the COVID-19-positive wedding guests — work that was still ongoing Wednesday.

On June 24, more than 360 people in the village were tested, and almost 100 of them tested positive. Most have remained asymptomatic but all have been isolated. 

“Our first priority now is to prevent the infection and break the chain. We have sealed parts of the neighbouring Meetha Kuan, Khagari and some parts of the suburban marketplace of Paliganj,” Paliganj Block Development Officer Chiranjeev Pandey was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. 

The coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in India, the world’s fourth worst affected country by the numbers, with close to 600,000 known cases and more than 17,000 deaths.