The capital Patna tops the list with over 17,000 active cases of Covid-19 during the current wave.
As there is a sharp rise in Covid-19 numbers in Bihar, officials and health experts have flagged an increasing trend of novel coronavirus cases being reported from rural areas. As per official figures, in many predominantly rural districts, the number of active Covid-19 cases is almost nine to ten times of what it was in the first pandemic wave’s peak in the month of September last year. As of now, the state of Bihar has more than 1 lakh active covid cases. The capital Patna tops the list with over 17,000 active cases of Covid-19 during the current wave. But this month, five other districts with a large rural population have registered an increase of more than 4,000 active cases: Gaya (7,703 cases are active), Muzaffarpur (5,406 cases), Saran (4,778 cases), Begusarai (4,675 cases), Aurangabad (4,364 cases), according to an IE report.
In sharp contrast, at the end of September 2020, during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, there were 12,686 active cases in Bihar with Patna having a maximum of 1,981 active covid cases. There were 636 active cases in Muzaffarpur, 433 cases in East Champaran, 300 cases in Saran, 168 cases in Aurangabad, 228 cases in Begusarai and 316 cases in Gaya. Other than Patna, only Purnia and Supaul crossed the 500-mark with 732 and 550 active cases respectively. The steep rise in the number of deaths has also been an alarming issue. Between 12 October 2020 and 12 April 2021, daily death count in Bihar had remained in single digits, with 672 deaths in total. But the state has recorded 775 deaths in the last 16 days alone.
This time, experts blame the rural surge on various factors, like the highly infectious nature of the novel coronavirus variant, migrants returning without Covid-19 tests as well as lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. The state tested more than 50,000 samples on March 31 and over 60,000 samples on April 1. Sensing the second wave, it increased testing on April 5 to cover more than 72,000 samples. Bihar has been testing more than 1 lakh samples per day over the last 10 days. The state, during the first pandemic wave, registered a maximum positivity rate of 12% in July 2020 as against four-seven percent before and after that month. The state’s positivity rate in April this year is 10-13%.
Besides Patna, Muzaffarpur, Gaya, Begusarai, Saran and Aurangabad, ten other districts in Bihar have witnessed an increase of more than 2,000 active cases since April 1: West Champaran (3,749 active covid cases) and Bhagalpur (3,463 cases), Purnia (2,973 cases), Nalanda (2,907 cases), Supaul (2356 cases), East Champaran (2,168 cases), Vaishali (2146 cases), Siwan (2131 cases), Samastipur (2114 cases) and Rohtas (2077 cases). In fact, about 40% of the state’s total caseload of 4.4 lakh- 1.75 lakh number of cases- has been added in this month itself. The state, for the last ten days, has been reporting over 10,000 covid cases. The maximum number of cases during the first wave that Bihar had discovered in a day was 4,000.
According to experts, there are other major differences between the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic. Railway passengers arriving on trains this time are tested for covid but not so much those coming through inter-state road borders. Unlike last year, quarantine centres for people have also not been opened on a large scale. Also, they have been limited to a few sub-division towns. During the last covid wave, testing of passengers was done on a mass scale and they were sent to centres at block and panchayat level for a mandatory two week quarantine. Nearly 18 lakh people stayed in these quarantine centres. This time, only those patients who are Covid-positive are being sent to quarantine centres.
According to Health Minister of Bihar Mangal Pandey, the state government has been distributing masks in villages as well as raising awareness to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. The state government is also trying to create more oxygen beds in district towns, he said. To admit rural covid patients and to ease the strain on facilities in Patna, the government has also declared JLN Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur and SKM College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur as dedicated Covid hospitals.