Raipur: Majhgaon village in Chhattisgarh’s Bemetara district, about 160 km north of capital Raipur, has a population of just 1,500 people.
But about 100 residents of the village have tested positive for Covid-19 this month, with the villagers saying at least 500 more people are showing symptoms but are yet to be tested.
So far, three persons have succumbed to the virus, according to official figures.
Local residents believe it all started after a nine-day religious event concluded in Majhgaon, which was attended by local residents in large numbers.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sarpanch Chandra Prakash Dhruv said the surge in Covid cases only began after the event. According to him, there was a big congregation on 3 April to mark the end of the nine-day ‘Bhagwat Paath’, a popular and annual event in the village.
“Majhgaon village had no positive case before the religious function was held,” Dhruv said.
He also pointed out that many local youths had been regularly going to Raipur to watch the Road Safety World Series T20 held there in March, and could have brought the virus to the village.
While the tournament concluded on 21 March, the nine-day event started on 26 March.
“So far around 95-100 people have been found positive but this is only the antigen test report figure,” Dhruv said.
“Although some of them have recovered, the positive number may be much higher as RT- PCR reports go directly to the patients,” the sarpanch added. “Besides, reports of more people being infected in this village are also coming.”
According to 70-year-old retired teacher Kaushal Singh, the village began reporting cases in the first week of April.
“It’s true that almost all positive cases in this village were detected either during or after the nine-day ‘Bhagwat Paath’ held in the village from 26 March to 3 April,” he said. “However, attributing this to one event will not be proper. ‘Bhagwat Paath’ is a traditional annual event of this village.”
Singh reiterated Sarpanch Dhruv’s claim that the “8-10 youths” from the village who had been going to Raipur to watch the cricket series could have contracted the virus there and then spread it in Majhgaon as some of them attended the religious event.
According to them, at least three of these youths are among the 100-odd Covid-positive patients in the village.
Singh, who tested positive himself and is quarantined at home, said he had taken part in the ‘Bhagwat Paath’.
“We never expected to see this scale of Covid cases in our village at one go. Most of the houses are having people with symptoms of cough and fever,” he added.
Neighbouring Chirahaa and Birsinghi villages have only three cases each at present.
‘Testing has stopped in village’
Villagers also claimed that testing has stopped here.
“A mobile team of the health department came regularly to test and collect samples for the first few days after 3 April but now they have stopped coming to this village,” said 20-year-old local youth Aditya Singh.
“We fear around 400-500 people are still suffering from cough, fever and cold but they are yet to be tested,” he added. “They have kept themselves locked inside their homes.”
Majhgaon panchayat secretary Bankeshwar Nishad also told ThePrint that testing had stopped.
“The health department’s mobile testing team has now stopped coming to the village for antigen tests that they were doing earlier. The last mobile test team visited the village five days ago,” he said. “However, villagers are going to the neighbouring village Chirah Public Health Center (PHC) for tests. We have requested the health department to hold a fresh test drive in the village as several people are still at homes with cough and cold symptoms.”
According to Nishad, the first positive cases in the village were detected after 5 April from members of one family. Their swab samples, he added, had been taken on 31 March, when the festival was still on.
“All these cases were reported post 5 April after the Bhagwat Paath was over,” he said. “The pundit who conducted the event and held the discourse for nine days was also found positive.”
He also said 20 of those who tested positive are in hospital, while the rest are in home quarantine.
Asked why the event was allowed to happen when the state had been witnessing a surge in cases since early March, Bemetara Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Durgesh Verma said, “We are aware of this event that has caused havoc in the village. All necessary steps have been taken to contain the spread of the disease. There was a sudden and sharp rise in positive cases here.”
He said “all circumstances point to the Bhagwat Paath as being the main cause” of the Covid spread. “However, all positive patients are being taken care of well. They have been provided medicines by panchayat and local health department staff. They have also been counselled by the health department teams on how to maintain social distancing and stay in isolation at homes. The situation at Majhgaon is being monitored thoroughly.”
‘Every individual to be tested in rural areas’
With Chhattisgarh among the worst-affected states, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel Sunday ordered officials to test each and every person in villages in view of the rising Covid cases in rural areas.
At a special high-level review meeting, Baghel directed officials to make all necessary arrangements for special campaigns to test every person in rural areas.
The Chhattisgarh government has also sealed the state’s borders, with the CM also directing officials to follow the lockdown strictly as it has been extended up to 26 April.
“Inter-state borders adjoining all districts should be sealed and strict action should be taken against those who are spreading propaganda on corona,” the chief minister said. “It should be ensured that health workers and frontline workers strictly follow the guidelines of Covid-19 to avoid infection.”
With 13,832 fresh Covid cases reported on the past 24 hours, Chhattisgarh’s total positive cases have reached 5,58,674, according to the latest figures released by the state Monday night.
Of the total cases, more than 2 lakh were reported in April alone. The highest single-day spike 16,084 positive cases were reported on 17 April.
As many as 165 deaths were reported Monday, which take the Covid toll in the state to 6,084. While 4,23,591 people have recovered as of now, Chhattisgarh with 1.29 lakh active cases is second only to Maharashtra on this front.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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