Migrants arrive to board a Shramik special trains Prayagraj Railway Station
Migrants arrive to board a Shramik special trains to travel to their homes during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, at Prayagraj Railway Station, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Image Credit: PTI

Patna: The government in Bihar, headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has decided to close down all the government-run quarantine centres in the state after June 15, even though the number of positive cases of coronavirus in the state has seen an alarming jump in the past one month. Covid-19 has claimed 23 lives in Bihar so far, while 3,692 people have been infected by it.

A decision to close down all the 12,291 quarantine centres being run for migrant workers was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by the chief minister on Sunday night. Currently, 576,792 people are staying at these centres, which are being run at the block level across the state, while 794,474 people have returned home after completing the 14-day mandatory quarantine period.

Authorities said they were closing down these centres as there were little chances of any more migrants returning to Bihar. “The state government has decided to run these quarantine centres till June 15 only since almost all the migrant workers have arrived while the remaining ones will be reaching here in the next couple of days. All these people will be completing their 14-day quarantine period by June 15. So, all these centres will be closed after June 15,” Anupam Kumar, Secretary, Information and Public Relations, announced on Monday.

Isolation centres

Officials said people returning after June 15 would have to be in home quarantine, while those testing positive would be kept at the government isolation centres at various places across the state and at government hospitals.

According to an official report, a total of more than 1.94 million migrants have returned home on 1,433 Shramik Special (Labourer Special) trains to Bihar so far. This doesn’t include the number of migrants who have returned home on trucks, tractors, buses and other modes of transport, as well as those who have cycled or even walked their way home.

Health officials blame the returning migrants for the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state. Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said out of the total number of cases, 2,569 cases, or 70 per cent, were traced back to migrant labourers. The major contributors were migrants coming from Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the health secretary said.

Keeping in view the seriousness of the situation, the state government has already decided to send to quarantine centres only those migrants who have come from the 11 high-risk and moderate-risk cities, such as Surat, New Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurugram, Kolkata, Noida and Bengaluru. People coming from other cities will be asked to be in home quarantine, provided they are asymptomatic.

Serious ailments

The state government is also conducting a door-to-door screening of migrants coming from other states to identify suspected Covid-19 cases and also to track down persons suffering from serious ailments. The government is focusing on screening elderly people and pregnant women who could be more prone to the infection.

“Now that most of the migrant workers have arrived and the number of Covid-19 cases is increasing fast, there is an urgent need to increase the number of isolation wards and number of beds as per protocol,” the chief minister said. He also expressed the need to launch a massive awareness campaign on coronavirus to make people aware of how to save themselves and others from this deadly virus.