Patna: With cases of COVID-19 rising faster than last month in Bihar, the state is lagging in testing as official data revealed that it has one of the lowest testing rates in the country.
In the last three months, Bihar managed an average daily testing of 1,012 samples. This is one of the lowest in the country. Till date, Bihar, with an estimated population of nearly 12.50 crore, has tested 1,02,318 samples, a number which includes the random sampling of migrant workers, who had returned from other states.
Bihar Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh admitted that the positive cases are seeing a rise now in the state. He said, “Bihar had 5,247 confirmed positive cases which is 5.12% of total [people] tested so far. It is a matter of big relief.”
But he downplayed the low testing average in the state saying that the government is trying to scale it up.
Another senior health department official, on the condition of anonymity, said that fewer positive cases have a direct link with the low testing. “The government-run facilities have been testing 2,500 to 3,000 people on average daily in June, of which 150 to 250 are testing positive. If we test 5,000 or as high as 10,000 per day, the number of positive cases will go up.”
He said more testing was needed if the government was serious about containing the spread of the novel coronavirus in densely populated Bihar.
The first COVID-19 positive case was tested on March 22 in Bihar ahead of the nationwide lockdown. Till early April, there were only three positive cases reported with one death.
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According to the health officials, the state has been conducting 313 tests per million. This is less than the neighbouring West Bengal, which is conducting 543 tests per million, followed by 518 tests per million by Telangana. Uttar Pradesh is conducting 601 tests per million, the worst-affected Maharashtra is conducting 1,846 tests per million and Delhi is conducting 5,335 tests per million,
Interestingly, nearly a month after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar instructed officials to scale up testing to 10,000 per day, the present average daily testing is 3,000 samples.
Taking an average daily testing of 1,012 samples in the last three months, Bihar has managed to test only 10% of what Nitish Kumar had directed. However, Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said that by June 20, the state will achieve its target of testing 10,000 samples per day because there will be testing facility centres in all districts by June 15. At present, COVID-19 tests are being conducted at 28 centres in the state.
On the other hand, restaurants and malls opened in Patna on Monday, while all the religious places of worship, too, opened their doors to the devotees. Last month, air travel operations began from Patna; market complexes have opened in the city. All this is likely to diminish social distancing, causing a spurt in positive cases.
However, government officials have been attributing the spike to the return of thousands of migrant workers to Bihar in the past three weeks. Even as the government has been doing random testing of migrant workers, there is no random testing of the local population.
The government has said that the sudden rise of coronavirus cases in the state was related to the arrival of a large number of migrant workers, who reportedly accounted for 72% of the total COVID-19 positive cases.
According to top officials of the state government, more than 30 lakh migrant workers had returned to Bihar from other states over the last month due to the nationwide lockdown and consequent job losses. The first batch of stranded migrant workers arrived in Bihar on May 2.
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