As lakhs of migrant workers are returning to UP from coronavirus hotspot states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, the UP government is wary of a fresh wave of infection as close to 1.5 lakh migrants have entered the state on foot or by taking ride on trucks and mini-vans, thereby skipping thermal screening and other preventive measures like institutional quarantine.
While the government has been making all efforts to put a stop on migrants entering the state on foot – Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath almost daily has been urging migrants to not return on foot, assuring them of providing transportation facilities – it has not met with much success yet.
According to Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi nearly 10 lakh migrant worker workers have returned to the state since the lockdown came into force in the third week of March, and the government expects another 10 lakh to return in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, Awasthi that 3.26 lakh labourers have returned through 268 trains since the Centre began to operate special trains to help migrants reach home last week.
Out of them, about 2 lakh people migrants workers have returned from Gujarat, the second-most state affected by coronavirus, through 156 trains. The other states from where migrants have returned are Maharashtra (50,000 through 38 trains), Punjab (60,000 through 50 trains), Telangana (about 5,000 through four trains), Karnataka (about 10,000 through 8 trains), Kerala (5,000 through four trains).
Earlier, around 5.25 lakh migrant workers were brought to the state from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“The Chief Minister has said that it is to be ensured that no migrant workers enter the state on foot at any cost. All the migrants are to be screened and put in quarantine. He has also directed the concerned officials to make a detailed plan to provide employment to these migrants,” Awasthi said on Wednesday.
As per the a senior state Health Department official, out of the total 3,758 Covid-19 cases reported till date in the state, at least 60 are migrant workers with some of them entering the state without going through the screening process.
A senior health official told The Indian Express that at least 39 such migrants were tested positive in the first few phases of their return till mid-April. “In May, 14 districts in the state did not have any positive cases. It is safe to say that all of those districts came into the list of affected because of migrants who tested positive. Most of the districts in eastern UP, including Amethi, Ambedkar Nagar, Ballia, Chanduali, Deoria, Kushinagar, Siddharth Nagar, Sonbhadra, did not have any case till April but they are in the coronavirus-affected list now after migrants tested positive there. Several districts like Prayagraj, Kaushambi, Pilibhit and Lakhimpur Kheri were free of any active infection case when they too got positive cases, mostly migrants,” said the official.
Siddharth Nagar district is the most affected where, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Seema Rai, all 28 persons affected are migrants. “First we found two persons positive on April 30. Later, one person who returned from Kaushambi infected 10 other migrants at the quarantine centre. At least 13 migrants were tested positive here in a single day. Most of the cases that came after that have returned from Mumbai,” she said, adding that more than 50,000 migrants have already entered the district and the number is to reach 2.75 lakh in the coming days.
Shravasti Chief Medical Officer Dr AP Bhargava said that out of the total 12 cases positive in his district at least seven are migrants who returned mainly from Mumbai. He said that they have screened at least 15,000 migrants till date and this include a significant number of migrants who are entering the district through fields, kutcha roads and not informing the authorities.
“We have made a very strict screening protocol for the returning migrant workers. Those found asymptomatic after thermal screening are being sent to home quarantine for 21 days. The symptomatic ones are being tested through the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), and if found positive then they are admitted to a dedicated Covid-19 hospital for treatment. In case the test comes out to be negative, they are kept in institutional quarantine for seven days and then tested again. If positive in the second test, they will be sent to the hospital, and if not then home isolation for 14 days,” Principal Secretary (Health) Amit Mohan Prasad said.
Only recently Prasad had emphasized on the proper functioning of community surveillance model as they are highly dependent on them to ensure that the home quarantine protocols are followed by these migrants. “I want to draw attention to the fact that migrant workers are returning to the state in large numbers, even from the states which are highly affected by the virus. We are also getting information about some of these workers being infected. This is why it becomes very important that our community surveillance model is used properly. Be that the Gram Nigrani Samiti made on village level or the Mohalla Nigrani Samitis on the level of urban localities, they are to work with utmost seriousness. We need everyone’s attention on this,” Prasad had said earlier.