Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday favoured extending the COVID 19-induced lockdown till the end of May, underscoring that it would help the state bring under control the situation that has arisen with natives returning on a large scale, officials said.
Speaking at a video conference Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with chief ministers, Kumar made it clear that the state will be in agreement" with whatever decision the Centre took with respect to the lockdown but extending it would be helpful.
He also highlighted various relaxations the state had offered during the lockdown for easing the hardships faced by people and for resumption of economic activities.
Thanking the prime minister for running 'Shramik Special' trains to facilitate the journey back home of migrant workers, students and pilgrims from places where they had got stuck following the lockdown, Kumar said 1.14 lakh people have come back to Bihar by as many as 96 trains.
He also said that 179 trains are likely to arrive in the state during the week, and urged the Centre to run additional rakes so that the return of all migrants could be completed in the next 7-8 days.
Kumar said there was a surge in incidence of COVID-19 following the influx of people from other states and abroad, with the number of confirmed cases crossing the 700 mark.
We have conducted random testing of 1,900 returnees, of whom 148 have tested positive, he noted. He said the state's testing capacity needed to be enhanced drastically.
"On an average 1,800 samples are being tested daily and we want to raise it to 10,000. We hope that our requisition for additional RT-PCR machines, and the kits used in these as well as RNA extraction are fulfilled at the earliest," Kumar was quoted by officials as having told the meeting.
He also said the state had requested for 100 ventilators.
Kumar also appreciated the concerted efforts made by the Centre and the states in combating the pandemic and lauded state governments for discharging their duties well during the crisis.