Days after the central government cleared movement of stranded migrants, tourists and students amid a nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus, seven daily-wage labourers in Uttar Pradesh who recently returned from Maharashtra have tested positive for the highly infectious COVID-19.
The labourers in eastern UP's Basti district, about 260 km from state capital Lucknow, were quarantined at a college after their return earlier this week; they have now been shifted to a local hospital. The quarantine centre is being sanitised. All those who came in contact with these patients are being traced and isolated, according to the officials concerned.
This is reportedly the biggest cluster in the state of migrants who have tested positive for coronavirus after returning to UP.
Lakhs of migrants were stranded across the country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide shutdown on March 25 to check the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 37,000 people so far, killed at least 1,200. Heart-breaking stories have emerged of daily wage labourers - left without jobs - trying to cover journey of hundreds of kilometre on foot to return to their homes as transport services remain shut.
In Uttar Pradesh, which was one of the first states to run special buses to bring back migrants, nearly 2,300 people have so far tested positive for coronavirus; at least 42 have died.
Five weeks after the shutdown began, the central government on Wednesday gave a clearance for the movement of stranded labourers, students and tourists.
After requests from special states for special trains, Indian Railways on Friday announced special "shramik" trains for these labourers. Physical distancing measures will be enforced on the trains.
Each "shramik" train will carry between 1,000 and 1,200 people to ensure social distancing during travel. All passengers will be screened for coronavirus symptoms prior to boarding; only asymptomatic people will be allowed to travel, the Railways stressed. "It will be mandatory for every passenger to wear a face mask," Railways also said, adding that all passengers would be screened on arrival as well and those showing symptoms would be quarantined.