Patna: Bihar has not seen any fresh novel coronavirus cases in nearly three days, state health minister Mangal Pandey said Tuesday. But doctors in Bihar cautioned against early euphoria.
“It’s been 64 hours since we last detected a coronavirus positive case and the number (of positive patients) has remained 32. It is an auspicious indication,” Pandey told ThePrint.
“We are testing any and every person who shows symptoms like congested lungs. Why should we go for community testing?” added Pandey in response to the criticism over restricted testing.
Until Tuesday, Bihar had tested around 4,200 people, said Pandey.
However, doctors in the state said the Nitish Kumar government should not let its guard down.
“We should wait for at least another five days. However, I do find that the fear factor among health workers and the people has decreased,” said Dr Ajay Kumar Sinha, the nodal officer for coronavirus cases in Patna’s Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH).
Earmarked by the government for treatment of Covid-19 patients, NMCH has received 16 coronavirus positive patients so far out of which eight have recovered and sent home.
“Many of those who have coronavirus and are quarantined will not know that they are suffering from the virus. According to reports more than 8,500 people are still quarantined. We should wait for another few days,” said Ajay Alok, a private practitioner in Patna.
“The news that there has been no fresh case in Bihar for the last 64 hours is positive but it should be treated with caution,” added Alok.
The testing question
Doctors in the state pointed to the low number of tests in the state as a cause for worry.
“Two weeks ago, the Bihar health department held a meeting with senior doctors and I said that the only way out was test and test and test. Unfortunately, the number of testing is grossly inadequate for a state having a population of 13 crore,” said Dr Ajit Pradhan, a leading cardiac surgeon in Patna.
“How does one know the number of coronavirus positive patients living undetected?” asked Pradhan.
He advocated the adoption of the ‘Bhilwara model’ in the state.
After being identified as one of the Covid-19 hotspots, Bhilwara was virtually sealed off amid a “ruthless containment” with a “100% screening”. In the last eight days, Bhilwara has reported just 1 positive case.
However, Prabhat Kumar, former superintendent of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) in Patna, said Bihar doesn’t need the Bhilwara model, which should be restricted to just the hotspots.
But Sinha conceded that testing rates have been low. “Community testing would have been ideal. But there is a resource crunch. Bihar has been focusing on people who have a travel history and those who have come in contact with persons coming from abroad,” he said.
Others are pointing to the massive influx of migrant labourers coming to Bihar. The government has claimed that it has quarantined 25,000 of the migrant workers.
However, a senior retired doctor said on condition of anonymity, “The influx is larger and the government has no idea about the actual numbers. I think that CM Nitish Kumar instead of giving them doles like Rs 1,000 and three months’ ration should have paid for testing kits to get the labourers examined.”
Until last week, Bihar had just one centre (Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences) for testing coronavirus cases. Since then, three more have been added — Patna Medical College and Hospital, IGIMS and Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital.
“In IGIMS, we get around 200 samples coming from various districts every day. It is a time-taking process,” said an IGIMS doctor who didn’t wish to be named.
Initially, there was a dearth of testing kits. However, over 25,000 testing kits have now been sent to the state, including antibody kits.
“The problem of these (antibody) kits is that they identify antibodies forming after one gets coronavirus. In many cases the antibodies may not have been formed and they will be tested negative. The same patient may test positive after 10 days,” Kumar highlighted as a concern for testing.