Patna: With the fast spread of COVID-19 cases reported in Bihar in the last few days, eyebrows have been raised over utter violation of COVID guidelines by the hundreds of doctors in the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar recently. This is widely seen as the main factor behind rising COVID cases among doctors and MBBS students.
In the last 48 hours, more than 100 doctors and MBBS students have tested positive for COVID-19. Most of those who tested positive attended the 96th national annual Indian Medical Association (IMA) conference held in Patna on December 27 and 28. As per official reports, about 96 doctors and MBBS students of Patna-based government-run Nalanda Medical College and Hospital ( NMCH) tested positive. Besides, nearly half a dozen doctors of other hospitals also tested positive.
There are reports that dozens of doctors, who are private medical practitioners, tested positive after attending the IMA convention. Still, they have not come forward and decided to get treated at home.
"It is a hard fact that hundreds of doctors violated COVID-19 guidelines at the IMA meet. There was no social distancing despite the crowded hall. Most of the doctors were not wearing masks in violation of COVID norms. This resulted in the fast spread of COVID among doctors," said a senior doctor who attended the national conference of IMA.
Kumar was the chief guest at the IMA national conference, attended by nearly 5000 doctors from across the country. They attended several functions, including dinner. The video clips and pictures of the event on social media made it clear that doctors have violated the COVID-19 guidelines.
According to another doctor, several doctors from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other places, which reported sudden increases in COVID cases, were seen freely moving and interacting at the conference without masks.
Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary of the IMA Bihar, expressed his concern about rising COVID infections among doctors.
"Yes, it is true that COVID protocol was not followed at the IMA conference. Doctors should have appropriately behaved as per guidelines," he said.
Dr Kumar did not rule out that more doctors could test positive in the coming days. Last year, more than 120 doctors died due to COVID in Bihar.
A health expert said those doctors who tested positive might have spread COVID to patients at OPD and emergency ward during treatment before they got their reports, which is bound to spread infections.
The official COVID report says 16 doctors and MBBS interns of NMCH tested positive on Saturday, and 84 tested positive on Sunday. The 84 were among 142 who tested positive in Patna on January 2. The state has recorded 352 fresh COVID cases on Sunday, as the number of active cases increased up to 1,074.
Bihar is witnessing a big jump in new COVID cases as it had recorded 26 COVID cases on December 27 and active cases were 116. But in the last week, the state reported a massive increase in daily cases and overall active cases.
"In view of doctors testing positive, all the doctors at NMCH and other government-run hospitals in Patna would be screened for COVID from Monday. Any negligence at this stage is risky," a health department official said.
Interestingly, the top officials of the health department are silent on violation of COVID guidelines at the IMA conference that the CM and his cabinet colleagues attended.
Kumar on Monday said that a high-level meeting would be held on January 4 to review the COVID situation in the state. The government is likely to decide on night curfew and issue new COVID guidelines.
"We will take decisions to deal with increasing COVID cases in the state," Kumar said after inaugurating the launch of the vaccine for children in the 15-18 years age group at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences here.
Kumar said he had directed health officials to increase COVID testing in the state as positive cases are showing a rising trend as elsewhere in the country.
"The much-awaited genome sequencing laboratory facility began at the institute for Omicron test."
Last week the first Omicron case was detected in the state.
However, once again, people in urban and rural areas are entirely under the grip of the COVID fear at the beginning of this year. Their fear is based on havoc witnessed during the second wave in April-May 2021, unlike during the first wave in 2020. COVID-19 has claimed hundreds of lives in the state.