Seasonal migration to cities is a common livelihood strategy for forest-fringe households in central India. Based on a previously collected household survey of 5000 villages across 500 forest-fringe villages in 32 dis-tricts of central India, we identify migration patterns over the last 5 years. Villages with seasonal workers are widely dispersed (75% of surveyed villages) and 81% of destination cities had reported COVID-19 cas-es at the beginning of the lockdown. Using a disease spread model to assess distancing strategies if return-ing migrants carry the virus to villages, we find that lenient restrictions for people within a village com-bined with maximal restrictions between villages could reduce the number of people exposed compared with moderate restrictions both within and between villages. Such a 'village bubble' strategy could reduce the risk of spread among vulnerable populations and requires that essential goods reach villages.