Anup Malani, Manoj Mohanan, Chanchal Kumar, Jake Kramer, Vaidehi Tandel

Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 among workers returning to Bihar gives snapshot of COVID across India

India has reported the fourth highest number of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases worldwide. Because there is little community testing for COVID, this case count is likely an underestimate. When India partially exited from lockdown on May 4, 2020, millions of daily laborers left cities for their rural family homes. RNA testing on a near-random sample of laborers returning to the state of Bihar is used to estimate positive testing rate for COVID across India for a 6-week period immediately following the initial lifting of India’s lockdown. Positive testing rates among returning laborers are only moderately correlated with, and 21% higher than, Indian states’ official reports, which are not based on random sampling. Higher prevalence among returning laborers may also reflect greater COVID spread in crowded poor communities such as slums. 

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The University of Chicago