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COVID-19: Bihar minister says foreign-returnees priority for testing; migrant workers should stay put

Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey said the state has tested around 1,000 people, of whom 15 reported positive for coronavirus.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Published: March 30, 2020 9:01:18 pm
Bihar coronavirus news, coronavirus lockdown, coronavirus latest updates, COVID-19, bihar coronavirus testing, indian express, migrant workers coronavirus, bihar migrant workers coronavirus Ever since the coronavirus lockdown was announced, workers from various states have been trying to make their way back to Bihar. (Express photo/Gajendra Yadav)

With 15 people testing positive for coronavirus, Bihar is currently giving priority to those who have come from abroad for testing, and the government wants migrant workers to stay where they are to ensure social distancing, state’s health minister Mangal Pandey said.

“We are conducting tests. We are collecting samples even at district levels. In Bihar, we have already tested 1,000 people, and 15 have tested positive. Priority is being given to those who have come from abroad,” Pandey told The Indian Express.

Pandey said the ICMR has approved three testing centres for the state, which can conduct 600 tests daily. “But we are not getting that many samples. People have not come out in such numbers. Only those who have symptoms have come for testing,” the minister said, denying any fear or anxiety was stopping people from coming for tests. “Awareness campaign is on. Everyone is aware of the disease and its impact,” he argued.

Pandey said as of now, around 2,500 people have been quarantined and efforts are on to identify and monitor others who may have come in contact with those infected.

“The Prime Minister has appealed to everyone that people should stay back during the lockdown. Movement is not the right thing to do. It is important for safety and to save their lives they people maintain distance,” Pandey said.

There have been some criticism that the state government has not provided facilities for those who want to return from their workplaces in other states. “We are appealing to everyone. The Prime Minister has appealed with folded hand not to cross lakshman rekha,”the minister said.

However, he added that the government has reached out to everyone who has come in so far. “There was a scenario yesterday, but today it is different,”he said. Among the migrant workers, if someone shows any symptom, they are tested immediately, he added.

“People are returning and we have reached them in their respective villages. They are in home quarantine in schools run by panchayats. Around 2,500 people are already in isolation and observation,” the minister said.

The ministry is following up on the data on who has come from abroad. “We go to their houses, collect the samples and conduct tests,” he said.

Bihar’s first coronavirus victim was a man who had returned from Qatar and died on March 21. Before he died, the Munger resident was found to have infected two of his family members and two employees of the private hospital he was admitted to for a brief period in Patna.

According to Pandey, the state government has taken all measures and procured adequate materials, including personal protection equipment, masks, testing kits, etc.

“There is some issue with procurement but there is no shortage. PPEs and medicines are in stock and more are coming. It is true that they are not easily available, but we are taking all measures,” the minister said.

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