Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha record big spikes as migrant workers return home
Nationally, between May 1 and May 20, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased from 37,262 to 1,18,226. The biggest contribution to the spike came from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.Updated: May 23, 2020 04:03 IST
The eastern Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have seen the fastest growth in Covid-19 cases since May 1, when the railways started bringing back stranded migrant workers, compared to any other state in India, shows Covid-19 data from different states.
However, compared to the western Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan and southern state of Tamil Nadu, the absolute number of the cases in the eastern states is still very low. A reason for this could be the very low number of tests per million of the population conducted in these eastern states compared to the more developed western states.
In Bihar, where the number of those testing positive for Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, has seen a fivefold jump, the total number of positive cases on Friday was 2,105, which is less than the daily increase in positive cases in Maharashtra (on Friday, this was 2,940). Jharkhand, where the cases have seen a fourfold increase in the past 20 days, the total number cases are 309, less than the average per day increase of Covid-19 cases in Gujarat (on Friday, this was 363). In the neighbouring tribal state of Odisha, the cases between May 1 and May 20 went up nine times, taking the total number of cases to 1,189.
Nationally, between May 1 and May 20, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased from 37,262 to 1,18,226. The biggest contribution to the spike came from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
In these eastern states, one of the reason for the sudden increase in cases has been the return of migrant workers, especially from the Covid-19 hot spot areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat and Chennai. In Bihar, close to 57% of the total cases were of the migrant workers, in Jharkhand it was 48.5% (upto May 21) and in Odisha over 95% total cases from May 1.
In Jharkhand, besides migrant workers, many cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi. The state’s first case was a Malaysian woman, who was part of 22 member group who arrived in Ranchi after attending the event. The group had gone to two mosques in Ranchi’s Hindpiri locality. Further contact tracing in the area led to discovery of a number of cases. Of the 105 reported in Ranchi, over 80% were concentrated in Hindpiri locality.
On May 1, the railways started Shramik Special trains bringing passengers back and workers were also sent back through buses. Many workers also came back by trucks and walked back to their homes in these states. Since their return, these eastern states saw a spurt in Covid-19 cases, pushing the administration to put lakhs of people in institutional quarantine.
Till Thursday, Bihar has set up 10,353 block quarantine camps, where 7.45 lakh people were living for the stipulated period of 14 days. It is here that the samples of symptomatic persons and others are taken randomly for testing. “Preventing the migrants from directly going home, after reaching the state, has helped us contain the spread of the virus,” said Anupam Kumar, secretary information and public relations department.
As Bihar has scaled up testing, more Covid-19 cases have been reported. Of the 58,905 samples tested till Friday, 3.57% (2105 cases) had reported positive. This ratio was 1.79%, as on May 3, official data showed. “In the last one week, (May 15-May 21), the number of new infections has grown by an average 13% every day,” said Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Uday Singh Kumawat.
In Jharkhand, close to 2.90 lakh people, a majority of them migrant labourers, have been staying in institutional and home quarantine. On May 1, the number of such people was only 93,813. Of the 2.90 lakh people, who have been observing quarantine, 71,123 are in institutional quarantine, shows official health bulletin. “It has been noticed that many workers, who were tested positive, had arrived from red zones like Mumbai and Surat,” said Dr A K Singh, state president of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
As on May 20, the Covid-19 cases in Jharkhand were spread over 12 of 24 districts. Ranchi district alone had 83 cases then. The pandemic swiftly gripped the other nine districts as migrant workers started reaching home. Of the 309 cases, 147 were of migrant workers who came in Jharkhand after May 5, a bulletin released by the state health department of May 21 said. The seven day growth rate of the disease in Jharkhand stood at 5.84% against the national average of 5.36% and the doubling period too came down to 12.20 days against the national average of 13.28 days. Singh said Jharkhand needs to scale up testing to reflect the true impact of the Covid19 outbreak.
Between May 1 and May 21, more than 2.2 lakh migrant workers returned to Odisha from different states. Ganjam where over 72,000 migrant workers arrived from Gujarat, the number of Covid-19 cases has crossed 300 while Jajpur, another district with significant migrant returnees from Bengal the numbers have gone past 200. “Odisha’s Covid-19 number is expected to rise to 10,000 by June,” said Odisha’s Covid-19 spokesperson, Jayanta Panda, adding that all cases have been reported from quarantine centres and containment zones.
Unlike the western states with a high number of Covid-19 cases, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand have low testing rates. As of May 21, Bihar was testing 466 out of every one million people, said Kumawat. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has directed officials to ramp up testing facilities from an average of 2,000 to 10,000 per day, and to test as many migrants as possible. This rate for Jharkhand was 570 per million people and 2660 per million people in Odisha. According to worldometers.info, India is testing 1973 people per million population.
Of the 530,000 migrants that arrived till May 18, Bihar had tested only 1.57% (8,337) of them. Jharkhand has tested about 2% of 2.5 lakh migrant workers, who have returned. This rate for Odisha was 30% of the 2.2 lakh workers, who have returned. As Covid-19 cases surge, health officials say they are now not much perturbed by the rising numbers. “If Covid-19 infection will not rise then there will be no herd immunity. For herd immunity, two-thirds of people in a locality or area need to be exposed, which is going to happen,” said Panda.