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Workers who returned in trucks, buses test positive in Madhya Pradesh

Migrant workers huddled up in a truck as relief workers give them drinking water. File

Migrant workers huddled up in a truck as relief workers give them drinking water. File   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

About 70 of the 93 infected migrant workers in Morena district, the most for any district of Madhya Pradesh, had travelled back crammed in trucks, buses or private vehicles which contributed to the infection spread besides the fact that most of them were returning from the country’s COVID-19 hotspots, said district officials.

Racked by uncertainty over the lockdown’s duration with many fast running out of money and food, workers desperately attempted to return home by any means — few boarded the Shramik Special trains. Madhya Pradesh, besides being a central passageway for workers returning to other States, saw the return of 14,29,171 workers between April 15 and June 1, of whom 430, or just 0.03%, had tested positive for COVID-19 so far, said the State’s Health department.

The northernmost district Morena, which borders Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, apart from reporting the most cases had collected the most number of samples, at 2,124, from workers and passengers.

Workers returned mostly from hotspots such as Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, New Delhi, Agra and Surat and unknowingly carried the virus back, ending up infecting family members back home too, explained district Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) R. C. Bandil. “Almost all cases among returned migrant workers have a domestic travel history.”

Mr. Bandil asserted that barely anyone who returned by trains had tested positive. “It was mainly those who came huddled in trucks and small vehicles.” For instance, nine of 12 passengers including a pregnant woman, who had travelled in a TATA Magic from Ahmedabad, tested positive. “You can imagine how closely they would be sitting on the two-day journey, with less than a foot’s distance between two passengers,” said Dr. Bandil.

Also read: Coronavirus India lockdown Day 69 updates

In Rewa district, bordering U.P., 24 returned workers and passengers have tested positive. “Invariably all who tested positive returned by trucks or buses, and no one from trains,” asserted R. S. Pandey, Rewa’s CMHO. “We found six cases who travelled in the same truck,” he added. Most of the workers had returned from Mumbai, Surat and Ahmedabad.

As of June 1, as many as 691 villagers, including returned migrant workers, had tested positive in M.P., Manoj Shrivastava, Additional Chief Secretary, Panchayat and Rural Development, told The Hindu. He, however, contended, “Most infected had been on trains, while the least infected were those who had returned on their own”.

Stating that the count of cases was “miniscule” compared to the number of those who had returned he said: “We have been keeping a vigil on those returning to villages since March. So far, 11,692 have been quarantined at home and 58,388 at institutions. We took samples of 20,388 persons, of which 18, 242 have received reports. The important part is cases are being identified.”

Surprisingly, in Balaghat district, bordering Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, where the highest number of migrant workers in the State have returned, only six of the 1,03,642 workers have tested positive. However, along with Jhabua and Tikamgarh, where the next highest number had returned, Balaghat has been able to screen just half of them.

Monitoring and data collection at both border checkposts and the village level and teams of doctors from the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) had helped contain the spread among returned workers, explained Raghvendra Singh, Additional District Magistrate, Balaghat. “We mobilised 11 teams of two RBSK doctors each, under whom ASHA and ANM workers monitored workers at villages. These doctors give primary care, and if warranted, refer patients to district headquarters for sampling or further treatment.” Workers had mostly returned to Balaghat from Hyderabad, Chennai, Surat and Nagpur.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 5:48:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/workers-who-returned-in-trucks-buses-test-positive-in-madhya-pradesh/article31727022.ece

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