Patna: Amid the lockdown, Bihar has failed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus as cases of COVID-19 are rising and the infection has spread to all 38 districts in the state.
During the ongoing fourth phase of the country-wide lockdown, Bihar has witnessed a spike in positive cases, rising by the day. State health officials privately admit that the situation may turn alarming, as in Maharashtra and Gujarat, if it is not handled with utmost urgency.
Ironically, air operations began from Patna on Monday after two months with 11 flights taking off, market complexes have opened in the city and the government has also eased some restrictions.
However, government officials have been attributing the spike in cases to the return of thousands of migrant workers to Bihar in the last three weeks. But, what has raised eyebrows is that the government has been doing random testing of select migrant workers. There is no random testing of the local population.
More than 10 days after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar instructed officials to scale up testing to 10,000 per day, the present average daily testing is only 1,900 -2,000 samples.
What is worrying health officials is the high number of positive cases in recent days, at 12%, as compared to the national average of 5%.
According to official data, as of Monday (May 25), Bihar had 2,663 confirmed cases, including 69 news cases reported early morning. Reports of over 2,000 samples, which are under process of testing, are expected by late evening. Till date, 13 people have died due to COVID 19 in the state.
A senior health official told NewsClick that in the past eight days, on an average, nearly 200 positive cases are being reported on a daily basis, including 228 on Saturday (May 23), the biggest single day spike till date, that pushed the total tally of confirmed cases to over 2,500 on Sunday.
”Bihar’s figures of positive cases may be still lower than several states but the way cases are rising in the last one week, it may become alarming in the coming days”, he said.
Going by official data,1,050 positive cases have been reported in the state since May 20 till date. There are nine districts with more than 100 positive cases.
Another health official said more testing was needed if the government is serious to contain the spread of coronavirus. Bihar has so far tested more than 62,000 samples at its seven government-run laboratories and over half a dozen testing facility centres and Tru Nat and CB-NAAT machine facilities at eight places in different districts.
Bihar health secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said the sudden rise of coronavirus cases in the state was related to the arrival of a large number of migrant workers. So far, 1,620 migrant workers have tested positive during random sampling.
“More than 13 lakh migrant workers had arrived in Bihar till Sunday by over 900 special trains. Of them, 392 returned from Delhi and tested positive, 362 from Maharashtra, 256 from Gujarat ,128 from Haryana and remaining from other states tested positive” Singh said.
He said till May 9, only 96 migrant workers had tested positive for coronavirus of the 78,706 who had officially reached Bihar by special trains.
Another 8 lakh migrant workers will reach Bihar by 476 special trains in the next three-four days.
More than 11 lakh migrant workers are staying in over 15,000 quarantine centres across the state.
Interestingly, till May 20, the state government had no official data of how many workers from Bihar were employed outside the state