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‘Unassigned’ coronavirus cases near 3,000, rise as curbs on movement lifted

Cases in the unassigned category make up 2 per cent of the country's 1,45,380 cases of coronavirus infection as of Tuesday, and could potentially skew the case curves of several states

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Updated: May 27, 2020 3:03:02 pm
‘Unassigned’ coronavirus cases near 3,000, rise as curbs on movement lifted En route home, migrant labourers seen at the Ghaziabad border on May 27, 2020. (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

With the increase in inter-state movement of people, the number of Covid-19 cases that are “unassigned” to any state has quadrupled over the past week to 2,970. Only nine states in the country have a case load that is higher than that number.

Cases in the unassigned category make up 2 per cent of the country’s 1,45,380 cases of coronavirus infection as of Tuesday, and could potentially skew the case curves of several states.

The category “Cases being reassigned to states” was introduced in mid-May. Numbers under that head grew from 230 on May 16 to 1,403 on May 21, to 2,970 cases on May 26. The category has no information on recovery or deaths within this group, unlike the other state categories.

Government officials said that the category captures the cases where discrepancies exist between the person’s home state and current state.

A senior official of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) told The Indian Express that the unassigned category has been growing because of the increased inter-state travel in the country — a sign of how countrywide movement could impact the efforts to track the epidemic.

“Those are the cases where we need to reassign because where they are admitted or where they are being quarantined still needs to be determined. For example, truck drivers. They have gone somewhere, they become symptomatic, and they get tested. A state now needs to own them. Once their test is positive, it comes into the system. But the system doesn’t know in which state this person has to be put in,” the official said.

Source: States’ data for last 24 hours, updated up to 9 pm on May 26.

An official from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said: “The rule we use is that wherever someone is tested is the automatic location inputted. If, for example, someone from UP is tested in Delhi, the testing sample will be assigned to Delhi. But what if during sample collection, the person said they are from UP? Then, once a positive sample comes back, we need to determine exactly which location is this patient in now — for hospitalisation, quarantine, etc. So every day, we have to shift the locations once the information is found.”

The unassigned category has been growing within states as well. In Andhra Pradesh for example, there are now 312 cases – more than 10 per cent of the state’s 2,719 confirmed cases – with no district-level assignment. In Tamil Nadu, the unassigned category has grown from 40 on May 21 to 92 on Tuesday. In Gujarat, it grew from 26 to 43 in that same time.

Between May 1 and May 15, two-thirds of the 1,000 Shramik Special trains carrying migrants home took 8 lakh passengers from Red Zones to Green or Orange Zones. Domestic flights resumed on Monday, and over the past few weeks, vehicle movement between states too has picked up.

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