Five people from Jogapatti in Bihar’s West Champaran district, who have tested positive for COVID-19, walked all the way home from Jahangirpuri in New Delhi last week.
Four persons who tested positive in Sitamarhi had come from another state, also in the last week.
In the past one week, 44 people who have tested positive for the infection in Bihar had travelled from other states.
Senior officials in Bihar government said migrants who continue to “sneak in” during the second leg of the nationwide lockdown were among the key reasons for the surge in COVID-19 cases. From 64 cases till April 14, the case count in Bihar has now risen to 409. While 29 of the state’s 38 districts have reported cases, Munger, Patna, Nalanda, Siwan, Rohtas and Buxar have the highest case counts. The state has so far conducted over 22,000 tests.
Meanwhile, the state government has asked the Centre to run special trains to bring migrants home.
Principal secretary (health) Sanjay Kumar told The Indian Express, “Even though over three lakh people returned to the state during and before the first phase of lockdown, hardly any positive case was reported. But migrants sneaking into the state in the second phase of the lockdown from various parts of the country are posing a real threat. We are learning about people coming on bicycles, hand carts and even walking down. There is little the government can do about such clandestine travels.”
Asked what steps the state government has been taking in this regard, the health secretary said they would start universal screening from May 1. “We have screened people in a 3-km radius of positive cases, covered over four crore people and gathered 3,180 samples for testing. From May 1, we are going to each home to gather information on migrants and any symptomatic cases. Also, we will collect samples at quarantine centres,” said the health secretary. The state has a population of about 12 crore.
Asked if private hospitals could also be involved at some point in the fight against COVID-19, Kumar said, “Twenty-six private hospitals attached with CGHS have about 1,500 beds. We have asked them to set 20 per cent beds aside. As of now, we are able to deal with our hospitals, but we might need them (private hospitals) if cases continue to rise.”
The health secretary added that people needed to get over the fear, take adequate precautions and share details of any migrant returning to their neighbourhood without going through the mandatory quarantine period.
There are approximately 26 lakh people from Bihar stuck in different parts of the country.
Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, “It is very difficult to bring migrants through road routes. We request the Centre to run special trains to bring them safely from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra and other places for safe return.”
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