COVID-19 Cases Rising Fast in Bihar; Migrant Workers Keep

COVID-19 Cases Rising Fast in Bihar; Migrant Workers Keep

Patna: Cases of COVID-19 and death are rising fast in Bihar during the ongoing unlocking period. The state reported six COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, the biggest single day fatality so far, alarming health experts and the top brass of the administration.

With 138 news cases on Friday, Bihar has had a total 7,178 cases and 45 deaths so far. This is no doubt less than other states but numbers are rising fast.

In a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, the state government has directed all district civil surgeons to conduct more tests. Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh admitted that officials have been directed to collect more samples at the community level to trace the trail of the infection.

During the past 18 days of unlocking the sudden lockdown since March 25, the total number of COVID-19 positive cases has nearly doubled and so have the deaths. Corona positive cases in Bihar stood at 3,807 on May 31, and have gone up to 7,040 on June 18. Similarly, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 was only 23 on May 31, and has risen to 45 on June 18.

Patna civil surgeon Rajkishor Choudhary said that 25 positive cases were found in the district on Thursday but 17 of them had no travel history. “We are tracing how they got infected”, he said. Patna has the highest number of positive cases in the state.

Bihar has finally increased its testing rate. After lagging in testing for nearly three months, as official data revealed that it has one of the lowest testing rates in the country, Bihar has been conducting testing of more than 5,000 samples daily since Wednesday.

Interestingly, this is happening over a month after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar instructed officials to scale up testing to 10,000 per day.

Till date, Bihar, with an estimated population of nearly 12.50 crore, has tested 1,39,584 samples, a number which includes the random sampling of migrant workers, who had returned from other states.

What is alarming is that at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising by the day and spreading in rural areas, the state government has closed down all quarantine centres at block level from Monday and asked returning migrant workers to be in home quarantine. Prior to that, those who had returned to the state from outside, had to be kept in quarantine for 14 days.

Health officials privately pointed out that it was a wrong decision to close government-run quarantine centres from June 15. The infection is spreading to places where thousands of migrant workers, who were exposed to the novel coronavirus in red zones like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad, returned from, over the last one and half months.

Meanwhile, about 6,600 migrant workers arrived in four special trains on Thursday and 14,850 migrant workers arrived in nine special trains on Friday , with more expected to come in on Saturday. Thousands of migrant workers are expected in the coming days. As a result, the government’s decision to shut down quarantine centres has raised eyebrows.

Local reports from different parts of Bihar suggest that most of the migrant workers, who are supposed to be in home quarantine, were seen visiting nearby markets, roaming freely in the villages and mixing with villagers, without maintaining social distancing.

Government officials have been attributing the spike to the return of thousands of migrant workers to Bihar.

Anupam Kumar, Secretary, Information and Public Relations Department, said that till Thursday , more than 21 lakh migrant workers had returned to Bihar in 1,525 special trains. The first batch of stranded migrant workers had returned to the state on May 2.

According to senior officials of the state government, more than 30 lakh migrant workers had returned to Bihar from other states over the past month due to the nationwide lockdown.

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