As feared, spike in new cases now from rural India

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KOLKATA/PATNA/JAIPUR/RANCHI/BHOPAL: The coronavirus is slowly moving to the rural belt, with an increasing number of cases being reported from districts that were until recently untouched by Covid-19. In many states it has resulted in more districts coming under the grip of the virus.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his meeting with Chief Ministers on Monday, had also flagged the issue saying “now the effort should be to stop the spread of the Covid-19 to rural areas.”

The number of cases is not huge but it underlines a new threat the pandemic is posing.Take the case of Madhya Pradesh. Eight new districts have reported positive cases after May 1, these include Neemuch (27 cases), Anuppur (3), Satna (5), Bhind (4), Guna (1), Jhabua (2), Panna (1)and Sehore (4), Seoni (1), Mandla (1) and Sidhi (1), all predominantly rural districts.

In the Neemuch district that borders Rajasthan, the worst of the lot, the first case was reported on May 3. Members of a family that held a marriage function tested positive. The wedding was attended by relatives from Rajasthan and Gujarat.

In Rajasthan, Covid-19 infections have spread to two more rural districts—Jalore and Sirohi in recent days. However, a health department official said, “in rural areas, cases are much less and at best they constitute about 10% of all cases.”

In Satna in Madhya Pradesh, which has reported one death, three migrants who returned from Gujarat and two others who came back to their village from Maharashtra, have got infected.

In last few days, up to 65% of the positive cases reported in Bihar were in rural and semi-urban areas. Until the first week of May, about 410 of the 766 total confirmed cases were reported from rural and suburban areas.

Districts like Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Nawada, Siwan, Gopalganj, Munger, Bhgalapur, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Madhubani, Saharsa, Supaul, Sheikhpura, Samastipur, Katihar, Madhepura, Araria and Sheohar which have positive cases during this month.

In West Bengal, the pandemic has turned green zones into orange in the past three days. The total number of infected migrants, who returned from other states and tested positive, jumped to 23 from seven in the past 72 hours.

According to sources in the Bengal government, around 2.1 lakh migrants, who want to return, have already registered with the state government. Eight trains designated for the migrants will arrive the West Bengal from four states in the next five days, said an official of the state government.

Rajasthan has also witnessed a similar trend in recent weeks and infections have spread to two more rural districts — Jalore and Sirohi — in the state. Now Jalore has 14 Corona cases while Sirohi has 11 cases. Moreover, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajasmand and Barmer are some other rural districts of the state where recently a number of migrants have been found corona positive.

There are concerns the outbreak may spread further into rural areas, with trains being resumed to take workers to their native places. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday admitted that preventing the spread in rural areas following the return of lakhs of migrants will be the next big challenge for his government.

Jharkhand stats confirm the trend
In Jharkhand, about 75% of positive cases in recent days emerged from rural belts. Out of the total 50 cases registered in Jharkhand in the last 12 days, 38 are from rural areas.

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