Odisha claims lowest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country

Odisha government launches portal for registration of migrant workers who anticipate their return to the state

By Priya Ranjan Sahu, Ashis Senapati
Published: Thursday 30 April 2020
A young voter showing indelible ink on his finger after casting his vote in Odisha. The state government decided to stamp migrants returning to Odisha with indelible ink Photo: Ashis Senapati

The rate of those who contracted the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Odisha was the lowest in the country, at 0.4 per cent, much below the national average of 4.3 per cent, the state government said on April 29, 2020.

Odisha had 0.4 cases for every 100 sample tests conducted, which means one person tested positive for every 250 sample tests, said Shalini Pandit, the mission director of the National Health Mission in the state, citing COVID-19 data analysis of the past four weeks.

Delhi has the highest percentage of positive cases in the country, at 8.4 per cent. “In our fight against COVID-19 in the state, our main instrument is sample testing. We can find exactly where the virus is, only through testing,” Pandit said.

Any person who tested positive for the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and was not detected on time, had the potential to unintentionally infect 400 people a month, she said.

In the last four weeks, 15,000 sample tests were done in eight laboratories — four in Bhubaneswar and one each in Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela. The average sample tests done every day is 2,200.

Odisha was much ahead of the national average in terms of sample tests per 10 lakh population, with 666 sample tests against the national average of 452 in the country, according to data.

Odisha was going to start four more testing facilities in Koraput, Balasore, Balangir and Baripada to test more number of samples every day, said Pandit.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in a video meeting with top officials of the state on April 28, ordered increasing sample testing to 15,000 per day to take into account the impending return of lakhs of migrants stranded in other states.

A total of 29,108 samples were tested by Odisha so far, of which 125 cases were found to be positive. The state registered only one death from the infection.

Five per cent of the positive cases came from abroad, while 45 per cent had travel history to neighbouring West Bengal, according to data. The remaining 50 per cent were infected after coming into contact with others.

Six positive cases were reported on April 29, of which two were from Jharsuguda and Deogarh, which had not reported any positive cases till now.

Odisha also has more green zones than orange and red zones.

Odisha asks migrant workers for Aadhaar for registration

The Odisha government has made it mandatory for Odisha's migrant workers stranded in other states — who want to return after the nationwide lockdown is lifted — to show their Aadhaar cards as part of their registration formalities.

The decision to make the declaration of Aadhaar details compulsory was met with concern by experts. Around 10 lakh workers from Odisha are stranded across the country, with no employment and no means of sustenance. 

Most of the migrants work as plumbers, weavers, mechanic, masons and daily wage earners. Many workers find it tough to cope with the present situation after the closure of several industries and stoppage of construction work due to the pandemic.

Travel restrictions also left the migrants in a tight spot, said Umi Daniel, a director at non-profit Aide et Action. He expressed concern over the decision of the Odisha government to make the Aadhaar data mandatory for registration.

“It is not possible for large numbers of migrant workers to produce Aadhaar card. The state government should allow them to prove their identities through alternative options,” said Daniel.

Other means of identification, including voter ID cards, driving licenses or post-registration authentication by panchayats, should be asked instead of the Aadhaar card, Daniel added.

The Odisha government, on April 24, had launched a portal for the registration of the migrant workers. It is compulsory for every returning migrant to register on this portal. Anybody who has not registered will not be able to enter the state.

The state government also decided to stamp migrants returning to Odisha with indelible ink to ensure all those who returned were quarantined, ensuring the plugging of loopholes, said Subroto Bagchi, Odisha’s chief spokesperson on COVID-19.

Indelible election ink is used during elections in India to prevent duplication of voting.

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