NEW DELHI:India is witnessing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, which experts attribute to more than 3 million migrant workers returning from major cities to their home states.
In the eastern state of Bihar, for example, at least 2 million migrant laborers are expected to return from across the country over the next few months.
According to data released by the Bihar government on Monday, out of 835 migrant workers who were tested on their return from Delhi, one in every four tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of COVID- 19 cases in Bihar jumped to 1,500 on Wednesday — an increase of more than 700 from the previous Friday.
In a surprise decision on Wednesday, the Bihar government removed the main spokesperson and the health secretary, Sanjay Kumar, from his post as COVID-19 cases in the state rose.
Until May 18, the state had tested 8,337 people who had come from outside the state, of whom 651 tested positive.
According to a rough estimate, the eastern state of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh account for at least 3 million migrant workers across the country.
As industrial units and construction activities across the country shut down after the announcement of the nationwide lockdown on March 24, millions of workers were rendered jobless and homeless.
Many of them started walking back to their native states hundreds of kilometers away.
Since early May, the government has been running special trains from different parts of the country to transport these “daily-wage” workers home. But a fortnight on, thousands are still stranded in Delhi.
Currently, India is seeing around 5,500 new COVID-19 cases every day. On Thursday, the total number of cases passed 112442 and there have been 3,500 deaths.
( Image:Migrant workers from other states line up to board buses for their onward journey by train to their destination in Mumbai.)