One in every 10 Kumbh Mela returnees tests positive for COVID in Gujarat

Health experts fear that Haridwar returned people may turn super spreaders, taking the virus to places which have remained relatively immune to the infection so far

No state, except Gujarat, has released the number of COVID positive patients among returnees from Haridwar.

The fear of ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar turning a hotbed of COVID infection across the country is turning out to be true as 49 people out of 533 who returned to Gujarat from Haridwar tested positive in Ahmedabad in the last two days. Gujarat has made it mandatory for all people returning from the Kumbh to undergo mandatory rapid antigen test upon their arrival in Ahmedabad.

All the positive patients have been shifted to COVID care facilities in the city. A total of 34 people out of 313 tested positive upon arrival from Haridwar on Saturday (April 17). Fifteen more tested positive out of 220 returnees on Sunday. As per the data available so far, one out of every 10 returnees has tested positive in Gujarat, stoking fear that Kumbh returnees may become super-spreaders.

“All the people returning from Haridwar will spread the virus even more and they will be a source of new clusters of COVID 19. In places which are already hot spots, the addition would be little, but in places where the pandemic has not reached, these people would contribute significantly in spreading the disease,” said Dr Sundarraman, Global Coordinator of the People’s Health Movement.

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Dr Sundarraman further said, “The number of people testing positive here may look small in proportion to those who attended the Kumbh Mela. But this time the absolute number would be much higher. Thus, this could be quite an unprecedented super spreader event.”

Overall, the Kumbh Mela is sure to have an amplifying effect on the pandemic apart from all the other driving factors that have already accelerated the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Dr Sundarraman also insisted that the administration needs to scale up testing at least five times to the current testing.

Earlier, Chief Minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani had announced that all the returnees from Haridwar will have to undergo COVID 19 test before entering the city.

No other state as of yet has released the number of COVID positive patients among returnees from Haridwar.

The number of active cases in Gujarat has risen to 61,647. The state recorded 10,340 fresh coronavirus positive cases in the last 24 hours, the highest spike in a day, taking the number of infections beyond 4 lakh to reach 4,04,569. The state also saw the highest 110 fatalities during the day, taking the toll to 5,377.

Gujarat is among the worst 10 hit states in India as of today. Maharashtra has the highest 6.72 Lakh active cases followed by Uttar Pradesh (1.91 lakh) and Karnataka (1.33 lakh).

What are the curbs in other states?

In Maharashtra, Mumbai mayor Kishori Pedanekar said that the Kumbh Mela returnees will have to be quarantined upon return to the city for at least 10 days. She suggested that all the states should follow this rule.

Karnataka health minister Dr Sudhakar tweeted: “Pilgrims returning to the state after taking part in the holy Kumbh Mela at Haridwar must self-isolate at their home for a week and take an RT-PCR test.”

The Odisha government has also announced that all those coming back from Haridwar will have to undergo RT-PCR test and mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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Madhya Pradesh too has mandated that the Kumbh Mela returnees should quarantine themselves, but the state government has not made the COVID test compulsory. Even the self-quarantine or isolation is enough, said a state official.

Though Kerala has not put any specific curbs on Kumbh Mela returnees, it has issued an order that all the domestic passengers irrespective of their vaccination status shall undergo RT-PCR test upon arrival from other states or produce negative test report not less than 48 hours old.