Migrant influx pushes up Covid-19 cases in Rajasthan, govt fears spread in rural areas

The Rajasthan government and health authorities are on the edge fearing a spike in coronavirus cases as lakhs of migrants return from some of the worst-hit Covid-19 states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.

So far, 177 migrants have tested positive in the state, health department data shows.

The highest number of positive cases among migrants has come in from Pali district with 32 positive cases reported. Rajsamand has the second highest number of cases (25), followed by Ajmer with 19, Sirohi with 14, Jalore with 12, Churu with 11 and Dungarpur with 10 cases.

The already stretched local administrations are struggling to cope with the influx of migrants and to contain spread of the virus to rural areas where most of them are headed. To deal with the rush of migrants, the state government has sealed the state’s borders to regulate entry and made 14-day quarantine mandatory.

Around 19 lakh migrants have registered with the government, of which around 13 lakh have registered to return to Rajasthan.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has acknowledged that preventing the spread of the virus in rural areas as migrants return will be the next big challenge for the government.

State health minister Raghu Sharma sounded a note of caution on Wednesday saying that the return of the migrants presents a challenge and the government’s priority is quarantine.

“The total focus of the health department is now on strengthening quarantine facilities. The migrants are welcome but they have to undergo the 14-day quarantine period compulsorily so that people in the state who have been in lockdown since 50 days and kept themselves safe, do not get infected,” he said.

Sharma urged the local representatives to ensure that adequate quarantine facilities are developed in their respective areas. He said that migrants can opt for quarantine in a government facility or at their homes.

The local administrations are deploying additional police and healthcare teams to ensure that screening is done and samples are taken and migrants stay in quarantine for the 14-day period.

Fresh Covid-19 cases have been reported from districts that were either free of the virus or were on way to recovery.

Sirohi and Jalore districts, which were free from the disease till the beginning of May, have been hit by a slew of cases as migrants return to villages.

Churu district, which had no Covid-19 positive for 25 days, reported two new cases on May 8. Both were migrants who returned from Surat in Gujarat. Since then, the numbers have grown.

Similarly, Jhunjhunu which had not reported any Covid-19 case in the last 16 days, has reported new cases of migrants who travelled from Surat and Delhi.

Dungarpur, which was on the verge of becoming free from Covid-19, has also seen a rise in numbers of infected. The district had only one active case till May 5.

In Jaisalmer too, there was a ray of hope that the district will be free of Covid-19 after 34 of 35 positive cases recovered. But it has now reported new cases.

Health authorities have so far managed, with great effort, to keep the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases under control by enforcing the lockdown, curfews in hotspots and social distancing.

But with thousands of migrants returning home, screening, sampling and enforcing quarantine is proving to be a challenge for the administration.

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