Patna: Amid fear and threat of COVID-19, Bihar has failed to ramp up testing in the last few days. The state has also ignored repeated advisory of the central government to increase testing so far. This has resulted in a recent decline in positive COVID-19 cases.
The declining trend in testing has led to health experts, doctors, and even the common people raising eyebrows at the government's inaction.
"Decreasing the daily testing rate led to the reduction of positive cases reported since last week. It is a simple and deliberate plan of the government to show that COVID-19 is under control in Bihar. But if testing increases, the number of positive cases is bound to go up," said a health expert here.
As per the latest official data uploaded by the health department, the number of daily tests conducted in the state for detecting and tracing COVID-19 has come down recently, compared to early January and the last week of December.
Bihar conducted 1,48,164 tests on January 19, and 4,063 fresh COVID-19 cases were reported despite Chief Minister Nitish Kumar instructing officials to ramp up their testing numbers. Similarly, the state conducted 1,54,010 tests on January 18, and 4,551 fresh COVID-19 cases were reported.
On January 17, when the state conducted fewer tests, the number of new COVID-19 cases also declined. According to official data, the state conducted 1,12,221 tests, and 3,526 COVID-19 cases were reported.
But a day before that, on January 16, when the state conducted 1,56,659 tests, the number of new COVID-19 cases was 5,410. The state reported 6,325 cases on January 15 after conducting 1,72,539 tests. In comparison, it conducted 1,82,538 tests on January 14 and reported 6,541 Covid-19 cases. Similarly, Bihar reported 6,393 coronavirus cases as it conducted 1,82,377 tests on January 13.
The trend is evident that as more tests were done, more new COVID-19 cases were reported, and fewer tests reported fewer cases. For instance, the official data of January 10, when the state conducted 1,51,475 tests, reported 4,737 fresh cases. But it reported 5,908 and 6,413 cases respectively when conducted 1,88,133 tests and 1,80,407 tests on January 11 and 12.
Ironically, the state was conducting adequate tests when the number of positive cases and active cases were low. The state conducted 1,73,745 tests on January 6 and reported 2,379 fresh cases. The state conducted 1,64,408 tests on January 5, and 1,659 fresh COVID cases were reported.
"Instead of increasing testing for COVID-19, the testing rate has been decreasing day by day in Bihar. The state should ramp up testing," said Dr Shakeel, who is associated with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in the state.
A senior official of the health department said that the government focus was not to ramp up the number of testing so far. "testing is very low in rural areas as most of it is being conducted in urban areas," the official told Newsclick.
However, state health minister Mangal Pandey said that in the last twenty-four hours, 7,454 COVID-19 patients recovered in the state, which is nearly double the number of new cases reported in the state. As of January 19, the number of active cases is 30,581 and the recovery rate is 94.67%.
People in urban and rural areas have been entirely under the grip of the COVID fear since the beginning of this year. Their fear is based on the havoc witnessed during the second wave in April-May 2021, unlike in 2020. The virus has claimed hundreds of lives in the state in the last two years.
Bihar has witnessed a big jump in new COVID-19 cases as it recorded only 26 cases on December 27, with total active cases being 116; within days, the state reported 158 COVID-positive cases on December 31. It rose to over 6,000 in the first week of January.