Odisha Seals Its Border With West Bengal, Says Returnees From There Testing PositiveOdisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (Government of Odisha/Wiki Commons)

Odisha sealed its border with Bengal Wednesday (29 April) since 40% of the 125 COVID-positive cases in the state had travel history to Bengal. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that the biggest challenge facing his state at present are returnees from Bengal.

Odisha has stopped road communication with Bengal and sealed 57 road connections with its northern neighbour. The three persons who tested COVID-positive Wednesday--a 60-year-old man from Keonjhar, a 34-year-old man from Deogarh and an 18-year-old woman in Jharsuguda--all had returned from Bengal.

Odisha’s COVID-19 tally doubled from 61 to 125 in just 10 days. As many as 50 of them had returned from Bengal. Odisha, said Patnaik, has earlier faced two challenges: foreign returnees and those who returned from the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz at Nizamuddin. “Now the challenge is to take care of our brothers and sisters returning from Bengal,” said Patnaik.

Odisha has so far tracked more than 2900 people who returned from Bengal after March 25 by tracking their mobile phones and putting them in quarantine facilities. But the state administration suspects that the number of returnees from Bengal is much more and all panchayats in the state have been asked to identify them.

Odisha’s action and pronouncements also give the lie to Bengal’s claims that all is well as far as the pandemic is concerned in that state. “If 40% of the positive cases in Odisha are returnees from Bengal, one can easily fathom the spread of the pandemic in Bengal and the actual number of cases in that state,” said a senior bureaucrat in Odisha.

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