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Bihar reactivates quarantine centres for migrant workers amid India COVID-19 surge

Passengers migrants Mumbai workers luggage
Passengers wearing face masks carry their luggage at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus to catch trains in Mumbai, India. Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Image Credit: AP

Patna: The Bihar government has started setting up quarantine centres in villages to house migrant workers returning home from other states amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

India said on Tuesday that the cases were rising like a wave that’s moving faster than the previous one, warning that the next four weeks were going to be critical. “The next four weeks are very, very critical for us,” senior government health official Dr VK Paul told the media.

Alarmed at the surging COVID-19 cases and the migrants returning home following partial lockdowns and other related restrictions, the Bihar government has initiated a variety of measures, including setting up a large number of quarantine centres as was done last year, to deal with the sudden challenge. The state government took action after reviewing the coronavirus situation in Bihar with the district magistrates, district superintendent of police and to health officials on Tuesday evening.

“There is every possibility of migrant workers staying in other states returning to Bihar following rise in COVID-19 cases. So, the quarantine centres should be ready at the block level (to house the returning migrants),” Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said after the meeting.

Migrant workers have already started returning from various states, such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi that are in severe grip of coronavirus.

Special trains

The Central Railways headquartered in Mumbai has already announced it will run special trains from Mumbai to Patna, Darbhanga, Gorakhpur and from Pune to Danapur (Patna) to facilitate the return of people to their homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “The booking for the special trains will start from April 7 and the willing passengers can get tickets from all computerised reservation centres and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website after paying special fees,” chief public information officer of East-Central Railways, Rajesh Kumar said on Wednesday.

Migrant workers Bihar Mumbai railway
Migrant workers from Bihar state wearing face masks wait for a train at Lokmanya Tilak railway station in Mumbai, India. Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Image Credit: AP

The government said those coming from Maharashtra would have to go take COVID-19 tests at the Danapur railway station, close to Patna, for which 24 medical teams have been deployed. “Those testing positive will be put in quarantine centres while those testing negative will be sent back home by buses to be arranged by the government,” Patna district magistrate Chandra Shekhar Singh said. He said the first special train will reach Patna on April 10.

With COVID-19 numbers surging, villagers are cancelling bookings for wedding functions in view of the state government restricting number of guests and enforcing coronavirus guidelines. “Around 50 per cent booking of wedding halls has already been cancelled due to surging infections. The people are even cancelling the bookings for musical bands,” All Bihar Tent Decorators Welfare Association president Pankaj Kumar Pintu said.

The tourism industry too has suffered serious loss in view of the fresh wave of the pandemic. “The people who had booked honeymoon tickets for international destinations such as Maldives and Dubai are cancelling them as they think they might get stuck if they went there in the current situation,” president of Bihar Tourism Association Abhishek Tiwari told a local media.

Festivals cancelled

The state tourism department too has cancelled all festivals it had planned in April. “No tourism festival will be held in April while the decision on events planned for May is under consideration,” Bihar tourism minister Narayan Prasad said.

The COVID-19 situation has turned alarming in Bihar too with the total cases which remained at around 25 in the first week of March now suddenly crossing 1,000. On Tuesday, the state recorded a total of 1,080 cases. The situation is such that there is acute shortage of beds in most of the hospitals in Patna treating COVID-19. The government is now in the process of increasing beds.

Children and youth are also testing positive. According to officials, 15 students admitted to Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Patna have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the authorities to shut the institute for seven days. Similarly, 120 children in the age-group of six to 14 have tested positive in the past three days.

The Patna High Court too has reverted back to virtual mode of functioning after some judges tested positive. Patna High Court’s chief justice Sanjay Karol is the latest to test positive and has been admitted to AIIMS-Patna.

Bihar chief minster Nitish Kumar has asked the officials to go for aggressive testing and isolation, and also ordered for frequent testing of all frontline and healthcare workers as well their family members.

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