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As migrants return, Bihar worries about limited Covid testing capacity

As migrants return, Bihar worries about limited Covid testing capacity

With 1.10 lakh migrants having returned home to Bihar since May 1, and an estimated 85,000 more expected to return by the middle of the month, the state faces a formidable challenge: limited Covid testing facilities to screen the surging numbers of those coming into the state.

On Saturday, the Bihar government declared that of the 1,100 random tests done on passengers coming by trains from Nandurbar, Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad, 44 had returned positive. Since last week, the state has been conducting random samplings of about 1,000 migrants every day, with a focus on those coming from red zones.

Over the last few days, about 20,000 migrants have returned every day by trains and by road through the state's six inter-state borders.

The state health department has a capacity to conduct about 1,800 tests per day, and has been conducting an average of 1,400-1,500 daily at six government hospitals and the autonomous Rajendra Medical Research Institute (RMRI). The government has also allowed two private labs to conduct tests for anyone willing to pay — Rs 1,500 for the first test and Rs 4,500 for the second.

Bihar Principal Secretary (Health) Sanjay Kumar told The Indian Express, "The recent test results on migrants are alarming (4 per cent of the 1,100 random samples testing positive). We cannot test all migrants landing up at quarantine centres as the numbers have already touched one lakh. But we are aware of the challenges and have written to the Indian Council of Medical Research on May 9 to augment our facilities. As of now, we can conduct 1,811 tests per day. With proposed augmentation facilities, we will be able to test 8,622 samples per day."

Though migrants coming on trains and through inter-state borders are being registered and kept at quarantine centres, there are others who have been sneaking in, the health secretary said.

"With the help of village heads who let the administration know when there are new arrivals, we have been testing this group of migrants as well. We are also close to screening our entire population through door-to-door visits. So far, we have screened 10.4 crore people and collected 3,849 samples. This suggests that our population is by and large clean. But the migrants are a real challenge," Kumar said.

By April 25, Bihar had conducted over 16,000 tests and had 239 positive cases. As of May 10, the state has conducted 35,000 tests and recorded 629 positive cases, of whom 330 have recovered.

Bihar Disaster Management Principal Secretary Pratyaya Amrit said, "We have created capacity to accommodate about 3.5 lakh migrants at about 3,500 quarantine centres at block headquarters. As precaution, we are keeping people coming from red zones in separate quarantine centres so that those from green zones are not exposed to Covid. Besides, a doctor visits a quarantine centre every day to see if anyone has Covid symptoms. We are quarantining people for 21 days."

(Inputs and image from theindianexpress.com)

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