From Bihar to Odisha, Telangana to Karnataka, the return of migrants, expected to pick up pace as the lockdown eases, is bringing the coronavirus home, too, posing a fresh challenge to states fighting to contain the pandemic.
Of the 4,275 samples collected in Bihar from among migrants who returned onboard Shramik special trains between May 4 and May 13, 320 have tested Covid positive — 7.5 per cent. This is way above the positivity rate for the state, which is just about 2.75 per cent. Bihar has so far conducted about 35,000 tests, of which 953 are positive.
The high positivity rate among migrant workers is raising concerns in Bihar which is a primary destination state for migrant labour. And when the testing of migrants returning through six inter-state borders, through which about 10,000 are entering each day, is yet to begin.
The relatively large number of infections among migrants is one reason why Bihar has seen its caseload rise rapidly in the last few days. At less than 8.5 days, Bihar has among the fastest doubling time of cases well below the national average of 12.65 days.
Next door, Odisha was one of the first states to have reported a surge in the number of migrant labourers turning positive on arrival with Ganjam district being the hotspot reporting as many 249 cases in the 10 days since May 5.
Over the same period, Andhra Pradesh has a total of 105 positive cases imported from outside the state – this is 12.20 percent of the state’s active cases. Of the 105, 67 are from Maharashtra, 26 are from Gujarat, 10 from Odisha and one each from West Bengal and Karnataka.
On Wednesday, the state health department spelled out details of 930 migrant workers, who returned to Kurnool on a special train from Thane, Maharashtra: of the 250 among them who were tested, 38 were positive – all worked in a fish market in Mumbai.
Since May 5 until yesterday, Karnataka has reported 96 cases from outside the state – this is 20.25 per cent of the state’s active cases. Of these, 48 are from Ahmedabad, 29 from Ajmer, 16 are from Mumbai, two from Odisha and one from Chennai. However, for the state, it is the spread of the cases with travel history from outside the state, that will be a bigger worry for containment. The 96 cases are now spread across 14 districts.
Over the last one week, Telangana has reported 35 positive case of migrants which is 8.88 per cent of all active cases of the state.
In Bihar, an analysis of the samples were taken from returning migrants shows that as many as 76 of the 365 from Delhi were positive; 68 of 506 from Maharashtra; 88 of 1,066 from Gujarat; 11 of 101 from West Bengal and 10 of 172 from Haryana.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bihar Principal Health Secretary Sanjay Kumar said: “There is still not a problem with our home population as we collected less than 4,000 samples after door-to-door screening of 10.40 crore. Our challenge is to save our home population from getting infected from migrants coming to Bihar since the last week of April”.
Coronavirus numbers explained: Top ten states account for over 90% caseload
Asked if their early return – during the first lockdown — would have helped, Kumar said: “Ifs and buts have no meaning now. We have to increase our testing capacity to screen all suspects. We have requested ICMR to increase our testing capacity from current 2,000 plus to 8,600 per day.Getting positive cases from asymptomatic samples is the challenge.”
More so as the influx continues. This when the influx is ongoing. Since last week of April, till May 13, about 3 lakh migrants (including 2.25 lakh from trains) have returned to Bihar and are sent to quarantine centres at respective block headquarters. The state government has opened 4,672 quarantine centres which can accommodate about 4.52 lakh people.