Patna: With the number of COVID-19 cases showing a four-fold rise in the past month, it has become a really challenging task to contain the fast spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department, on June 27, exactly a month ago, Bihar had 8,979 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which have risen to 41,111 cases on July 27, with 32,253 new positive cases in one month.
What worries doctors and health officials is that the number of positive cases reported in a day has seen a ninefold rise. Bihar reported 248 new positive cases on June 27, but on July 27, the number was 2,192.
Similarly, the recovery rate of COVID-19 was 78% a month ago (on June 27), which has come down to 67.52% now. The number of active cases has taken a similar leap from 1,871 on June 27 to 12,361 now with case positivity jumping to 7.3% from 4.8% within the same period.
Though Bihar has been trying to increase the testing rate, it is yet to reach a target of testing 15,000 samples per day despite the hue and cry by the opposition and the CM’s instruction. The state tested 14,199 samples on July 26—the highest number of tests conducted in a day till date.
To date, Bihar has conducted 4,56,324 tests; it has one of the lowest testing rates in the country.
After a three-member high-level Central team visited Bihar on July 19, it had suggested that the state government increase testing capacity and the number of beds in the hospitals, improve its patient pick-up system via ambulances, etc. The government started rapid antigen testing in all 38 districts from July 21. The central team had reportedly expressed unhappiness over the condition and management of COVID-19 designated hospitals in Patna and Gaya districts.
According to a senior official from the state Health Department, the case doubling rate, for now, is 11 or 12 days. If it continues, Bihar would have nearly 1 million cases in next two months.
“The main task of the government should be to raise testing to at least 25,000 samples per day within a week and double it by August 15. Until testing increases, identification will be delayed and treatment will not be provided. There are a large number of people with COVID-19 infection roaming and interacting freely as they have not been tested. Such a situation on the ground will spread the virus infection if not identified as soon as possible”.
Indian Medical Association (IMA), Bihar, has blamed the state government for acute staff shortage and poor infrastructure at government-run hospitals treating the coronavirus positive cases.
Ranjit Kumar, general secretary of the Bihar Health Services Association, said the state has been facing an acute shortage of doctors, with close to 75% vacancy in the public health sector. What is alarming is that 35% of working doctors are over 60 years of age, he added.
Dr Ranjit said that in 2016, the state government had issued an advertisement to appoint 1,100 specialist doctors, but to date, those appointments are pending.
Dr Ajay Kumar, senior vice president of IMA, Bihar, said that nearly four months after the lockdown began, not a single doctor had been added at the government-run hospitals in Bihar.
“About 6,000 doctors applied for jobs at the government hospitals. They have been interviewed, but not yet appointed. All of them are waiting to join,” claimed said Dr Ajay, former president of BHSA and its advisor.
According to data from the National Health Profile, 2018, Bihar’s doctor-population ratio is the lowest in the country, with one allopathic doctor per 28,391 people and only one hospital bed per 8,645 people.
Meanwhile, Jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad, currently undergoing treatment at a Ranchi hospital for multiple ailments, has tested negative for COVID-19, a senior doctor at the facility said on Monday.
Three of his attendants, however, have been diagnosed with the disease, he said. His samples, along with those of his attendants, were sent for examination on Saturday as a precautionary measure.