Patna: With more than a lakh active COVID-19 cases in Bihar as on Friday, rural areas are fully under the grip of the novel coronavirus this year, unlike during the first wave last year. COVID-19 has already claimed lives in hundreds of villages on a daily basis but the news has either been suppressed or hardly gets any space.
The media's entire focus has been on urban areas, particularly Patna, despite the fact that the Oxygen supply crisis continues and the lack of hospital beds is forcing even critical or serious patients to move from one place to another for treatment to survive. However, few are lucky.
A sense of fear has been growing in rural parts of Bihar since earlier this week over the virus spreading fast as reports of more and more COVID-19 cases and deaths pour in day after day. People in villages across the state are gripped by fear and faced with unforeseen situations as the virus had largely left rural areas untouched last year except for a few reported cases.
Due to a lack of testing facilities and basic health infrastructure in rural areas, most people with clear symptoms of COVID-19 (high fever, cough, weakness and breathlessness) have been diagnosed with typhoid or a viral flu in village after village by local self-proclaimed doctors.
It is why hundreds of COVID-19 patients have been wasting several days in their villages without resorting to any proper treatment. The result is that their condition deteriorated and by the time they were rushed to hospitals in Patna or the nearby district headquarters, their Oxygen saturation was below 70 or even 60.
“We are scared. Village after village has more than one sick person in their homes. The doctor says it is typhoid but many people have died over the psat week. It was not the same last year. The situation is same in dozens of nearby villages. We are all living in fear as there aren't any doctors or medicines, let along Oxygen supply," said Nagma Khatoon, a resident of Raghunathpur village which falls under the Haspura block in Aurangabad, about 95 kms ftom Patna .
The fear in her voice is sadly characteristic of the emotion felt in these parts.
Vikas Choudhary, who lived in a village in Vaishali district, was initially treated by a local doctor who diagnosed him with typhoid. But when his condition suddenly worsened and he developed breathlessness on Wednesday night, his wife, young son and a close relative rushed him to a private hospital in Hajipur, the district headquarters of Vaishali. After few hours of treatment the hospital authorities directed them to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) as he needed to be put on a ventilator. Choudhary was finally admitted to the PMCH on Thursday but he is battling for his life as of now.
In another case, Zainul Haque Khan, a senior citizen who hailed from a village in Aurangabad district, was rushed to a private hospital in Patna on Friday morning after his condition deteriorated. He had been suffering from fever, cough and weakness for the last five days. He was also diagnosed with typhoid or viral flu.
A total of 13,098 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Bihar on April 29, taking the active caseload to more than one lakh in the state. There were 98,747 active cases in the state on April 28. On March 30 this year the state had reported only 74 cases; the increase has been manifold over the past month.
About 89 people died due to COVID-19 on April 29,the highest official deaths in the state in a day so far.
Sensing a more challenging time ahead, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has now directed officials to scale up testing, particularly of RT-PCR tests instead of the rapid antigen tests in order to trace cases for proper treatment.
According to health officials, RT-PCR facilities are very limited in district headquarters and are non-functional in several parts. Of all testing, between 60% to 70% are by rapid antigen tests while only between 25% to 30% tests have been via RT-PCR.
What is alarming is that at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising and spreading in rural areas, the state government has not initiated special measures for thousands of migrant workers who have returned to their native villages.