Covid-19 has now found a new hunting ground – rural India. After having many cities reel under its effect, there has been a trend reversal with rural districts in many states reporting a spike in cases. And, health authorities say it was mostly migrants returning home that led to this steady rise, with states reporting a jump ranging between 30% and 80% in rural areas since the influx began.

On Wednesday, TOI reported how rural areas in Rajasthan saw a steady spike in Covid cases, surpassing numbers in urban areas as migrants poured in from states they were working in. About 30% of Covid cases in the state are now from rural districts. A significant spike has been recorded in migrant-intensive districts like Dungarpur, Jalore, Jodhpur, Nagaur and Pali.

And, this is not just in Rajasthan alone.

In Andhra Pradesh, Covid-19 outbreak was predominantly limited to urban areas until about a month ago, accounting for nearly 90% cases. But rural areas of the state have now started witnessing a spike in cases.

Officials attribute this partly to increase in movement from urban to rural areas and vice versa. Andhra Pradesh reported about 1,500 cases in the last three weeks, of which about 500 cases emerged from the rural areas of the state. Some infections are also reported from interior tribal pockets of AP.

In Odisha, government officials say more than 80% positive cases in the state are now from rural areas, with 4.5 lakh migrants back till now.

More than 80% of the 4.5 lakh migrants has returned to 11 districts, all of which have witnessed spurt in positive cases, with Ganjam – that had zero cases till May 2 — now with the highest in Odisha at 499 cases and three deaths.

The situation is such that migrants are being treated as outcast in many places and are being forced to stay outside the village. Many now repent their return as they can’t stay in their homes despite following the quarantine rules.

Kerala has seen a spike in cases in its border districts of Kasaragod (112 cases) and Palakkad (144) in May.

When Covid-19 first struck West Bengal in March, Kolkata recorded the first cases and deaths as well. With time, districts close to the city saw a spike.

With the return of migrant workers, the number of corona patients rose in Malda, North and South Dinajpur, Hooghly and Coochbehar. Barring Hooghly, other districts are well beyond Kolkata — in North Bengal. Nearly 6 lakh migrant workers have returned till date through rail and road networks.

As many as 4,049 cases have been reported till June 2 in Bihar, of which 2,905 are migrants who have returned after May 3. Hence, 70% of cases in Bihar are of migrants and an official said they are from rural areas of Bihar.

On April 1, Bihar had 24 Covid positive cases and five of them were from rural areas, all of whom had returned from Gulf countries. On May 1, the number shot up to 450. Shramik special trains have ferried about 20 lakh migrant workers and other stranded people to Bihar. More than 2 lakh people are estimated to have returned by road.

In Chhattisgarh, the number of positive cases in rural areas climbed to 464 in June, from just eight on May 1. Health officials say of the 556 positive cases in the state, till May 30, 90% are migrants who came in. A little over two lakh migrants have returned to Chhattisgarh.

Uttar Pradesh, where about 30 lakh migrants have returned till now, has seen the trend shift too and if active cases can be a parameter, Basti and Amethi are home to second and third highest covid-19 cases in the state.

On June 2, Basti had 183 active cases and Amethi had 142 active cases. Data in UP clearly attributes a migrant surge. As on June 2, 70% of the 3,324 active cases in state were migrants.

In Punjab, authorities say the key reason for rural areas surpassing urban in Covid-19 cases are large number of pilgrims, who returned from Nanded in Maharashtra, tested positive.

Though much of the Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu are still in urban areas, primarily because 78% of the total 10,680 active cases, as of June 2, are in Chennai, the Koyembedu cluster took the virus to several villages across the state. As scores of villagers who worked in the Koyambedu wholesale vegetable market in Chennai returned to their native villages, rural areas started reporting a surge in cases. Now, there is a second wave of surge in rural TN with the return of migrant workers.

(With inputs from Jaipur, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, Kochi, Kolkata, Patna, Bhopal, Lucknow, Chandigarh and Chennai)

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