Representational image. Image Courtesy: The Indian Express
Patna, July 9: Wary of the rising cases of COVID-19 in Bihar, more than half a dozen district authorities have decided to impose a lockdown again.
After the Kishanganj district administration enforced 72-hour restrictions from Tuesday, the Patna and Purnea district administration announced a total lockdown between July 10 and July 16.The Bhagalpur district administration also announced a total lockdown between July 9 and July 13.
Similarly, other districts, including East Champaran, West Champaran, Buxar and Nawada will be under lockdown from July 10 to July 12.
Authorities in other districts like Kaimur, Supaul, Muzaffarpur and Aurangabad are considering imposing a lockdown in light of the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. Earlier, the Gaya district administration sealed the entire town and restricted vehicular movement as part of measures to minimise the spread of infection.
Patna District Magistrate Kumar Ravi said there will be a complete lockdown in Patna from Friday. All establishments, including government offices, commercial and private establishments will remain closed. All places of worship will also not be functional. However, banks and insurance offices will function and shops selling vegetables, groceries, milk and medicines will remain open between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“The decision to enforce a lockdown was taken in view of an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases in the last few days; it will help to check spread of infection,” he said.
On Wednesday, 749 COVID-19 cases were reported in Bihar. It was the highest single-day spike till date, taking the total number of cases in the state to 13,274, with 100 deaths attributed to the virus so far. The spike in cases has led to a worried top brass within the government.
Bihar had reported 385 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including 260 cases from Patna. In Patna alone, more than 70 medical staffers including doctors, nurses and 36 ambulance drivers’ helpers tested positive on Tuesday. According to reports, a close relative of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had been staying with him at his official residence, tested positive. About 60 staffers at his residence also tested positive.
As per official figures, Patna recorded 235 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. It was for the second consecutive day that more than 200 positive cases have been reported from Bihar’s capital. “A one-week lockdown will be imposed in Patna from Friday and the administration has already ordered shops to be close in containment zones in old Patna city areas which have been worst-hit by the infection,” said an official.
All shopping malls were closed in Darbhanga town from Tuesday till further orders. District Magistrate S.M. Thyagarajan said the administration has cracked down on shopkeepers who were not wearing masks. “We have sealed half a dozen shops for violating norms of the Epidemic Diseases Act,” he said.
Businessmen in Ara town, the district headquarters of Bhojpur, decided to close their shops for the next ten days. “All businessmen, under the banner of the Vyavsay Sangh, have decided to close our shops on our own accord in order to break the chain of COVID-19 infection,” said Prem Pankaj, president of the Vyavsay Sangh.
In Muzaffarpur district, Sadar police station was sealed after two police officials tested positive and District Magistrate Chandrasekhar Singh directed that all shops and offices which violated norms be shut down.
On Tuesday, the crisis management group of the state government authorised district magistrates to take additional restriction measures to deal with the rising number of cases. “It has instructed the DMs to keep a tab on crowds at market places and to ensure that people wear masks and maintain social distancing,” said an official in the Chief Minister’s office.
Reports mention that other districts will also enforce lockdown in urban localities in a day or two. What is alarming is that positive cases are now being reported from rural areas, which had been untouched till recently. Officials in Bihar have been attributing the spike to the returning migrant workers.
Bihar has increased its testing rate after lagging behind for nearly three months. Official data revealed that the state has one of the lowest testing rates in the country. Bihar has been conducting 5,000 to 6,000 tests daily in the last four days. The state tested 5,168 samples on July 7, a number which is still low when compared to other states.
Ironically, deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi claimed in public on Tuesday that Bihar is testing 9,000 samples per day and that its recovery rate is 78%. The claim was challenged by RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, who dared him (Modi) to prove his claim.
Opposition leaders have been targeting the government, saying that it had deliberately been testing less to suppress cases in view of the assembly polls later this year.
Till date, Bihar, with an estimated population of nearly 12.50 crore, had tested a total of 2,69,277 samples, including random sampling of migrant workers who had returned from other states.
Over the last three months, Bihar has managed an average daily testing rate of little over 2000 samples, which remains one of the lowest in the country.