The Behera brothers had to stay on quarantine for 21 days at a center. Each person is given a toothbrush, soap, a bucket, and a thin towel.
The next morning, Prafulla woke up with a headache. The doctor does not think he has Covid-19, but still asks him to stay away from others.
In a short time, Ganjam quickly became one of the most infested rural districts in India, after the return of migrants like Behera. Many Ganjam did not know what Covid-19 was, until those around them began to die.
Throughout Ganjam, people fell ill. The first dedicated Covid-19 hospital, with fewer than 60 special care beds, was quickly filled. Many patients have to lie on the floor.
India performed about 70,000 tests per day in early May, much less than the number of migrants lining up on platforms in the mornings. The passengers were tested with laser thermometers.
But in Ganjam, the trains are “over 100%” overloaded, said Vijay Amruta Kulange, the district’s top civil servant.
Ganjam, with a population of about 3.5 million, receives 20,000 migrants a day and doesn’t have enough schools to quarantine them all. In an overcrowded center, some people broke their way, smashed light bulbs and clogged the toilet with plastic bottles. Authorities reduced the quarantine period from 21 to 7 days.
At the district’s first Covid-19 hospital, Dr. Umashankar Mishra said, at one point, the oxygen supply for 200 patients ran out within 15 minutes. Frightened Dr. Mishra phoned the suppliers and learned that the truck carrying the oxygen tanks was stuck on a railroad track.
In two rural counties in southern Andhra Pradesh state, infections have skyrocketed and are now over 40,000, more than double India’s average per capita. Similar increases were reported in states such as Nagaland, Bihar, Assam and especially in Chhattisgarh.
By the end of June, dozens of villages in Ganjam had been blocked off. Residents were ordered to stay indoors. The police patrol the quiet lanes.
Taxi transformed into an ambulance. Volunteers make masks, cook food and answer help calls. At the quarantine centers, teachers instruct yoga classes. The whole district was mobilized and fought against the epidemic.
The trains finally stopped arriving at Ganjam on June 30. Authorities subsequently increased the quarantine period to 14 days and opened other Covid-19 hospitals but the outbreak was out of control.
No one is sure about the actual death toll of Ganjam district, as the number remains a mystery across the country. India has reported much fewer nCoV deaths per capita than many Western countries, but experts warn 80% of the deaths in the country are not medically certified.
Modi’s measures to control the spread of the virus have caused migrant workers to flee the city. The government has provided special trains to take them home. But that made the virus spread across the country.