Out of the 1.5 lakh migrant workers who have returned to Jharkhand on Shramik Special trains and by road over the past 17 days, 147 have tested positive for Covid-19.
Migrant workers make up around 50 per cent of the state’s 303 positive cases so far and 80 per cent of the 164 active cases. With more than 25,000 workers expected to arrive daily now, top state officials see a “serious cause for worry”.
“This is just the beginning. The question is what option do we have. You cannot turn away people coming to their homes. We are moving with caution, but it is a serious cause for worry,” said Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh.
He said the state has identified 24 districts in the country where the infection rate is high and people arriving from these areas are being sent to government quarantine facilities.
“On an average, 25,000 migrant labourers are expected to arrive daily and our testing capacity is 2,000 per day. We collect samples and test them as per our capacity,” he said.
Currently, four government labs and one private lab are conducting tests. To ramp up the testing, three labs are being set up at medical colleges in Dumka, Palamu and Hazaribagh.
Of the 24 districts in the state, Hazaribagh and Garhwa have the highest case counts. Currently, there are 71 active cases in these two districts and all of them are migrant workers.
In Garhwa, which has 44 active cases, District Civil Surgeon Nandkishore Razak said testing has become a “challenge”. “We look for symptomatic patients and some random people for testing. Earlier, we were collecting 200-300 samples a day and sending to Ranchi, but we haven’t sent samples in the last three days as there is a backlog there. Bhagwan bharose hai sab.”
Hazaribagh has reported 26 cases in the past 10 days. The district has sent 2,000 samples for testing so far. “In the next few days, we will have thousands of migrants coming from red zones. We can’t test everyone. We identify pregnant women, people above 50 and symptomatic patients for testing,” Hazaribagh DC Bhuvnesh Pratap Singh said.
A source in the state Health Ministry said the new ICMR guidelines state that among migrants, “only” those symptomatic need to be tested. “We will stick to what we have been doing. Actually the state is seeing the first phase of pandemic. We are helpless,” he added.
Jharkhand Principal Secretary Health Nitin Kulkarni said, “We are doing what we can and we are vigilant.”