PATNA/RANCHI: The number of migrant workers testing positive for Covid-19 since returning to their native Bihar on Monday increased to 651, or 8% of the 8,337 results that have come in so far from the initial lot of 11,800 samples randomly collected from among 7.4 lakh returnees.
Hypothetically, if the rate holds up and all migrant workers are tested, Bihar could be staring at a mountain of Covid cases upwards of 55,000.
CM Nitish Kumar has asked the health department to raise the testing rate by around 1,000 a day. Seven government medical institutions are currently testing an average of 2,000 samples a day.
In neighbouring Jharkhand, the same pattern of migrant workers accounting for the bulk of new cases seems to be emerging, although the size of its basket is only a fraction of Bihar’s.
Around 4pm on May 10, officials in Hazaribag had called a news conference to announce that all three Covid-19 patients in the district had recovered and there was no new case in 20 days. Hazaribag was to be declared a green zone the next day, they said. Hours later, a migrant returnee tested positive. Over the next week, 22 more cases followed.
Neighbouring Garhwa had seen this play out two days before. It had been on track to become an orange zone till the morning of May 8. The district’s three Covid-19 patients had recovered and no one else had tested positive in 10 days. By midnight, 20 people tested positive in one go. All of them had returned from other states.
When the Covid-19 outbreak started, Ranchi was Jharkhand’s hotspot. The epicentre has since shifted. Ranchi has just 20 active cases now. The rural districts have 87.
Many of the migrant workers who are back came from red zones in Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra. The country’s first Shramik Special train brought workers from Hyderabad to Ranchi on May 1. By May 17, more than 62,000 had returned by 52 special trains. Another 30,000-odd arrived by bus from neighbouring states.
“With thousands still returning home every day, we do not have the infrastructure to put all of them in institutional quarantine,” principal health secretary Dr Nitin Madan Kulkarni said.
“The state has just four facilities to test samples and none in the districts that are now witnessing a spike. All samples have to be sent to Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad. It sometimes takes days, even weeks, to get a report,” said Gurjeet Singh, state convener of the Public Health Foundation of India. Of the 37,000 samples collected in the state, only 975 are from Giridih and the reports of 381 (40%) are pending. Koderma has collected 802 samples. Garhwa is slightly better off with 1,268 (232 results pending). Hazaribag (2,064 samples collected) and Palamu (3,600 samples) are comparatively better, but still too little.
The worst, public health experts said, is still to come. “The incubation period of the virus is at least 14 days, so the real picture will be known only by the end of the month,” Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh said.
Source : TOI