The Uttar Pradesh government’s task to contain the novel coronavirus seems to be getting more strained with the arrival of lakhs of migrant workers.
At least 60 per cent of more than 2,200 coronavirus positive cases detected in the last 10 days have been traced to migrant workers. Lakh of workers have returned to the state on trains, buses, foot or by hitching rides in other vehicles.
According to the data collected by The Sunday Express, by Saturday evening, a total of 1,423 interstate migrant workers tested positive. As many as 50,708 samples of migrants have been collected — 2.5 per cent of the total 20 lakh migrants who have reached the state since mid April, Eastern Uttar Pradesh is the worst affected with almost all positive cases in Barabanki, Basti, Jaunpur, Ghazipur, Siddharthnagar, Bahraich, Sant Kabir Nagar, Ayodhya, Gonda among others traced to migrants.
The only silver lining in the data is that 80 per cent of these migrant cases are asymptomatic, meaning they do not require critical care.
However, the flip side is that this also makes it harder for the authorities to trace and track infected people.
State officials confirmed that more than 5.36 lakh migrants had arrived by trains from Gujarat and more than 2.46 lakh from Maharashtra. Most migrants, who tested positive, came from Maharashtra, followed by Gujarat.
Sources in the health department suggested that the reason might be that more people had returned from Maharashtra on their own in the second and third phase of the lockdown.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi had earlier informed that more than 20 lakh migrant workers, including 16.5 lakh on 1,199 trains, had been brought back.
Earlier talking to The Sunday Express, State Surveillance Officer Vikasendu Agarwal had said, “The daily increase in positive cases has more than doubled in comparison to April last week and May first week, and the reason behind it is the massive number of migrants being tested positive in different districts.”
Among the most affected districts is Barabanki where, according to District Magistrate (DM) Adarsh Singh, all the 133 found positive cases were returnees from other states or their close contacts. Till May 2, the district did not any active infection case.
Earlier, talking to The Sunday Express, he had informed that so far around 20,000 migrants had returned the district, and almost 12,000 of them were from the most affected districts in the country — Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad and Indore. Of the total cases, at least 104 tested positive in just two days, the highest two-day increase in any district in UP.
The second most affected district is Jaunpur which has recorded a jump of 92 cases (from 31 to 123 cases) in the last three days.
On Saturday, it added 32 cases after 43 on Friday. According to CMO Dr Ramji Pandey, all of the 123 positive cases are migrants and most have returned from Mumbai.
“While it would be very hard for us to give an exact number of migrants, all I can say is that Jaunpur is among the biggest districts in state in term of migrants. The whole economy of this district is based on Mumbai and in almost every single family, you will find a member working in Mumbai. Now they all are returning,” said Pandey.
In Siddharthnagar, another district with one of the largest number of migrants, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Seema Rai said that all of the 77 cases reported were migrant workers mainly from Maharashtra. The district is expecting a total of around 2.5 lakh migrants, most of whom have already returned.
Sant Kabir Nagar CMO Har Govind Singh said that almost 50 of their 60 positive cases were migrants and the number was expected to increase with more random samples. He said almost 1 lakh migrants had reached the district and 1,065 of them tested.
“The new cases are all migrants. Till date we have 60 positive cases, and almost 50 of them are migrants mostly from Maharashtra. This is not just the situation of Sant Kabir Nagar but the whole of eastern UP. These people returned and no serious precaution was taken. We screen them with the help of thermal scanners but that is not a very effective measure. Those who are scared, they take medicines to bring down their body temperature before being screened,” said the CMO.
Asked about the norms being followed, he said that most of the migrants are in home quarantine and more than 80 percent of those tested positive are asymptomatic.
“As per the existing protocol for returning migrants, the maximum number is in home quarantine. Only the suspected cases are kept in institutional quarantine and tested. However, we recently changed the guidelines under which we will take the details of every single migrant and take their samples on random basis from their residence. The person will be shifted to an L1 facility based on the result,” he added.
Authorities have collected the data on the returnees. “A paper slip will be pasted on their houses, with complete details. The nigrani samitis (monitoring committees) will keep a watch on them, and ensure they strictly follow home quarantine,” Additional Chief Secretary Awasthi said.
Similarly, Ghazipur district’s positive case count had jumped from 10 to 77 in the last 10 days, CMO Dr G C Maurya said. Almost 65 of the total case were linked to migrants.
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