Is Bhilwara Rajasthan’s COVID-19 hotspot?

A large number of people had returned to the town from abroad recently, according to accounts

By Madhav Sharma
Last Updated: Thursday 26 March 2020
Locals line up to buy essentials in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Photo: Madhav Sharma
Locals line up to buy essentials in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Photo: Madhav Sharma Locals line up to buy essentials in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Photo: Madhav Sharma

A string of cases positive to the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) have been reported in Rajasthan's Bhilwara over the last week.

The town and district registered their first case on March 19, 2020, when a doctor in the town’s Brijesh Bangar Memorial hospital tested positive for the virus.

On March 26, the tally for Bhilwara stood at 18 positive cases, one whom has died. This is Rajasthan’s first death due to COVID-19. The person who died, a 73-year-old man, was also suffering from chronic kidney disease.

So far, the state administration has conducted door-to-door surveys in the town. Teams have screened 106,856 households and 533,786 people.

Teams have also gone into the interiors of the district and screened nearly 75 per cent of the population, some 18,55,044 people. Bhilwara has been under lockdown since March 20.

Rajasthan currently has 41 positive COVID-19 cases. Besides Bhilwara, capital Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jhunjhunu, Pali, Pratapgarh and Sikar have all registered cases.

But why did the town in the Mewar region emerge as a hotspot? Most accounts have pointed to the high number of people that have returned to the area from abroad — 133 persons — as a cause.

Several media reports about the doctor at Bangar Hospital claimed that he caught the infection from some relatives from Saudi Arabia who had come visiting and later passed it onto his co-workers which led to hundreds of people getting infected.

However, Bhilwara deputy Chief Medical and Health Officer Ghanshyam Chawla rubbished these claims and said the administration was yet to find the primary infection source.

The infected doctor has posted a video from the hospital on social media, denying having any relatives in Saudi and also appealed to the media not to spread false rumours.

Bhilwara is Rajasthan’s textile hub. Sixty thousand textile workers have been rendered jobless as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic had compounded losses and hit the textile industry hard, Atul Sharma, senior vice president of Bhilwara Textile Federation, said. The industry hadn’t yet recovered from the double whammy of demonetisation and the Goods and Services tax.

Following the instructions of the state government and considering the impact of the pandemic, the Federation has decided that no wages will be deducted during this period despite the mills being closed. China too has been under a similar lockdown, which has fractured the supply chain.

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