Patna: With the number of COVID-19 cases crossing the 75,000-mark in Bihar and with more than 400 deaths in the state as of now, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has finally woken up from its slumber and initiated measures to control spread of the novel coronavirus. After largely being indifferent to COVID-19 in the state aside from rituals till mid-July, the government has decided to get its act together.
Bihar has tested 71,520 samples for COVID-19 on August 7, a record in itself. The number was the highest number of tests conducted in a day in the state till date. Most of the testing is being done through rapid antigen detection (RAD) kit instead of the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits, Bihar’s Principal Health Secretary Pratyay Amrit revealed on Friday.
Till mid-July, Bihar’s testing rate was the lowest in the country despite the fact that the state was warned of a vulnerability to COVID-19 by health experts. On July 14, the state finally tested 10,018 samples, close to two months after the CM (on May 13) instructed officials to scale up testing to 10,000 samples a day following a rise in cases.
After finally conducting tests for more than 10,000 samples in a day, the state struggled again to increase testing rates till the end of July. The state tested 14,199 samples on July 26.
Health Secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said the department has increased the testing rate and that it would go up further. As of August 7, the state had conducted 8,70,852 tests. There are 25,128 active positive cases in Bihar and the recovery rate is 64.44%.
The government has been claiming that it has been increasing isolation beds, ICU facilities, ventilators and other basic facilities at COVID-19-designated government-run hospitals and other hospitals.
According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department, Bihar reported 3,992 COVID-19 cases on August 8, taking the total to 75,786 in the state.
However, citizens are not pleased with the government’s efforts. “The government could have done this in May-June if not April, at a time when the number of cases were low. However, it was sleeping and ignored the need to increase testing rates, isolation beds, ICUs with ventilators and other facilities to provide proper and timely treatment to COVID-19 patients,” said Satayanarain Madan, a resident of Bailey road in Patna. Five of Madan’s close relatives battled the virus for days in home isolation or in hospitals, in the absence of proper facilities.
Madan, in his mid-60s, suffers from a chronic lung ailment and has been confined to the four walls of his house since March, living in fear of COVID-19. He told NewsClick that his relatives were lucky they survived. “We are reading about COVID-19 patients dying due to the lack of timely testing, ICU beds or ventilators at hospitals. It is a fact that hospitals are not admitting COVID-19 patients despite their critical condition. There is a shortage of beds and a lack of facilities,” he said.
He is not alone. Naiyer Fatmi, a resident of Mahendru locality at Ashok Rajpath, said that those with symptoms of COVID-19 are still running from one hospital to the other for admission. “Whatever the government is claiming is only on paper – the reality is different. This has forced a lot of COVID-19 patients to stay at home in isolation because admission to a COVID-19-designated hospital is a difficult task for common people,” she said.
Ramji Singh, Vinod Prasad, Ram Prasad Chaudhary, Shashi Ranjan Kumar and Savita Devi – residents of different localities in Patna, have one thing in common – their complaint of a lack of sanitisation and hygiene due to a lack of cleanliness. “Sanitisation is needed to control the spread of COVID-19, but it is missing. Authorities are ignoring the same and hardly taking care to ensure cleanliness,” said Singh, a retired government employee.
Prasad said people have no concern for a lockdown or social distancing either. It is the responsibility of the government to enforce and take action against those found violating it.
Amid a growing fear of the pandemic, dengue – another serious concern – is haunting citizens.
Indian Medical Association, Bihar, has expressed its concern over the death of 18 doctors due to COVID-19 in the state so far. Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary of IMA Bihar, said more than 200 doctors in Bihar have tested positive for COVID-19 and several are battling the virus in hospitals.
Nitish Kumar has instructed officials to increase the testing of flood victims staying in flood relief camps and other places using rapid antigen detection kits.
As per official data, 71,16,748 people have been affected by floods in 16 districts of Bihar so far. The Disaster Management Department released these figures on Monday night.
The government has evacuated 4,81,939 people till date from marooned villages. But thousands of displaced flood victims have taken shelter on high-rise embankments and National Highways.
Officials said there have been 23 deaths due to floods in the state.