As migrants’ return slows down, Covid-19 cases decline in Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and MP

Hindustan Times, Ranchi/Lucknow/Patna | ByBedanti Saran/Rajesh Kumar Singh/Ruchir Ranjan
Jun 16, 2020 12:04 PM IST

As compared to about 12% increase in cases in Bihar in the first week of June, there was 10.81% rise in the second week.

For the first time in the past one week, eastern and central states, which received most of the returning migrant workers, have witnessed a decline in the number of the cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) since May 1, shows data.

A woman carries a child as they wait with other migrant worker families to have their temperatures checked before being allowed to board a train tomorrow for their hometowns.(AP)
A woman carries a child as they wait with other migrant worker families to have their temperatures checked before being allowed to board a train tomorrow for their hometowns.(AP)

This has come as a big relief to the respective state governments amid fears that the returning migrants would push the Covid-19 cases in the regions and take the pandemic to rural areas, which has very poor health infrastructure as compared to urban places.

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While state governments kept the returning workers in quarantine for a period ranging from seven to 21 days, officials said the declining trend was because of a fall in the number of migrants returning home in the first and second week of June.

“The peak of returning migrant workers is over,” Lokesh Kumar Singh, Bihar’s health secretary, said.

Singh’s comment sums up the situation in the states that received a large number of migrant workers and is corroborated by the figures of the railways ministry, which has reduced the operations of its Shramik Special trains from June 15 as the demand from the states went down.

In Bihar, the number of Covid-19 cases increased to 6,581 on June 15 from 3,923 on June 1. Although the total number of cases had steadily increased, the pace has slowed down in the past few days, Singh said.

As compared to about 12% increase in cases in the first week of June, there was 10.81% rise in the second week.

According to Bihar’s public relations department, around 2.1 million workers have returned to the state since May 1, when the Shramik trains started, and of them, only 250,000 came during the first two weeks of June.

“Most of the migrant workers who have arrived by Shramik Special trains to Bihar between May 3 and June 11 have completed their mandatory quarantine period,” Anupam Kumar, Bihar’s public relations secretary, said.

As on Monday, Kumar said, only 6,082 workers were in quarantine centres and others were back in their homes after completing the 14-day mandatory isolation. He added that the state expects the cases to go down as very few workers are expected to return from this week onwards.

The situation is no different in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, where three million workers have returned since mid-April and which led to a spike in Covid-19 cases in eastern and western parts, the two regions, from where many people go for work to other states.

After their return, almost half of them have been medically screened for Covid-19.

The UP government’s health department data shows that the weekly average of the rise in the Covid-19 infections in the first week of June was 412 cases per day, which reduced to 356 cases per day in the second week.

“Over 500 cases were reported on Saturday and Sunday because of the results of the pending test reports coming. Otherwise, the pace of increase in cases in on the downward trend,” Amit Mohan Prasad, the principal secretary of the health and family welfare, said.

Prasad said health workers had screened 1.6 million migrants, who are under home quarantine, till June 14 and only 1,455 of them had symptoms of the disease.

“Samples of those who had shown symptoms have been taken,” he said.

The second week of Unlock 1 that began on June 1 has brought some reprieve for Jharkhand as well. There has been a declining trend in Covid-19 cases after 10 days of a steep spike as there was a substantial dip in the number of migrant workers returning.

The pandemic peaked on June 8 when the state recorded the highest ever single-day spike of 187 new cases. It took a downward trend thereafter with 50 cases per day on average being reported in the last four days. From 610 cases on May 31, the state’s tally on June 15 had increased to 1,151.

“The inflow of migrants was very high in May leading to a huge backlog of untested samples. As we cleared the backlog, there was a spike in cases,” Nitin Madan Kulkarni, the state health department’s principal secretary, said.

“The inflow of migrants has substantially reduced in unlock-1 and we have seen a downward trend of Covid growth in the last four days,” he said.

In Madhya Pradesh, another state with the high recipient of migrant workers, the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases has also slowed down. The number of new cases recorded has fallen from 1,424 in last week of May to 1,401 in the second week of June.

And, the reason for this was just 54,282 workers returning in June as compared to over 3 lakh in May.

“Out of these people 49,280 were home quarantined and remaining institutional quarantined,” said a rural development department official.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the number of new cases is coming down was a positive sign and showed their strategy was working.

(With inputs from Ranjan in Bhopal)

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