Almost two months since migrants started returning to their homes, data from Uttar Pradesh, their top destination state, has seen only 3 per cent of the tested samples of migrants testing Covid positive.
This trend has largely remained the same for the last 10 days. According to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme data, currently, as many 11.68 lakh migrants who have returned to the state are under surveillance. Of them, 74,237 migrants have been tested for the infection and 2,404 have turned positive — a positivity rate of 3.2 per cent. Over the last 10 days, the average is 3 per cent of the total migrant samples tested.
This suggests that a heavy influx of migration isn’t setting off an exponential growth in cases in Uttar Pradesh and the positivity rate in migrant samples remains close to the state’s overall figure, 2.85 per cent.
Indeed, the positivity rate of migrants being tested in Uttar Pradesh is almost 2 percentage points lower than the country’s positivity rate; and in stark contrast to the positivity rate in Maharashtra (15 per cent), Gujarat (8 per cent) and Delhi (9 per cent), states from where most of the migrants have returned.
So while the return of migrants has spread the infection in as many as 75 districts in the state, the low positivity rate means there has been no surge in hospitalisation and, therefore, no added burden to health resources – yet.
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At present, Uttar Pradesh has tested 3,07,621 samples for the infection; 24 per cent of the total testing in the state has been conducted on the migrants who have returned to the state. Of the 8729 total samples that have been found to be positive, 27.5 per cent are of migrants.
K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India and a member of the high-level committee of public experts for Covid, told The Indian Express that the data confirms that migrants had very low exposure rates to the virus due to the nature of their occupation and the location of their dwellings.
“I have been saying from the beginning that the migrants did not pose a threat. They should have been assisted in being sent back right at the beginning of the lockdown. The reasons are that, basically, people who brought in the virus are foreign travellers. They spread the virus and their primary contacts were the people who secondarily spread the virus,” Reddy said.
“Migrants are not the population, in sense of their occupation and place of residence, who would have come in contact with these people. The nature of their occupation was very different like construction sites or in very low-income dwellings. Their likelihood of having the virus by March 25 was very remote. If they had been assisted with being sent back, we would not have seen this problem. But having kept them in urban hotspots, kept for almost eight weeks, there was a danger they might have actually carried the virus. However, compared to others, their exposure rates would have been much less. The data now confirms that,” he said.
Reddy, however, pointed out that as “a matter of abundant of caution” the migrants need to be quarantined. More so, because many may be asymptomatic. “I don’t anticipate a major rapid spread. For a period of time, the virus may enter the general population. We must keep slowing that…It was a mis-impression that migrants pose a threat,” he said.
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