Patna: The NDA government led by Nitish Kumar in Bihar has come up with a new ‘jugaad’ to reduce the surge in COVID-19 cases – by lowering the daily test rate to screen lesser cases and use it to assert that the situation is not out of control. Ironically, this runs counter to the central government’s strategy to test more people for COVID-19.

With more than 1.09 lakh of active COVID-19 cases in the state on Sunday and 97 people dying of the disease, an oxygen crisis, lack of proper treatment, beds and medication in hospitals is not helping. not. Given the situation, the state government’s latest move to cut testing has raised eyebrows.

Sensing difficult times ahead, the Bihar chapter of the Indian Medical Association demanded that the state government impose a 15-day lockdown to control the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus. The heads of the state’s four major public hospitals, including AIIMS Patna, PMCH, NMCH and IGIMS, have also demanded a lockdown.

Instead of increasing testing for COVID-19, the state government is reducing it day by day. According to official data from the health department, the screening rate has declined in the past six days. According to official figures, Bihar tested 1,00,328 samples on April 27, 1,03895 samples on April 28 and tested 97,972 samples on April 29. The government tested 98,169 samples the next day (April 30), 95,686 samples on May 1 and 89,393 samples on Sunday.

Over the same period, according to the health department, 13,534 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday. Likewise, 13,789 new cases were reported on Saturday (May 1) and 15,853 new cases on Friday (April 30). As of March 30 of this year, the state had reported only 74 cases; the increase has been multiple over the past month.

With 109,945 active cases of COVID-19 in Bihar as of Sunday, rural areas are fully in the grip of the new coronavirus this year, unlike the first wave last year. COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of hundreds of villages on a daily basis, but the information has been suppressed or has little room.

Due to the lack of testing facilities and basic health infrastructure in rural areas, most people with obvious symptoms of COVID-19 (high fever, cough, weakness and shortness of breath) have been diagnosed with typhoid or a viral flu village after village by the local authorities. -processed doctors.

What worries health experts here is the decrease in testing, even after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar publicly announced that the state would increase testing and process a lakh of samples daily. “More testing is needed to detect and trace COVID-19 cases at an early stage in order to curb the spread of the infection. We are surprised that the testing rate has decreased instead of increasing. The government should perform more and more tests to limit and control the infection, ”said Dr Ajay Kumar, senior official at IMA Bihar.

Another IMA official, Dr Sunil Kumar, said tracing cases was proving to be a big challenge and it was only possible if more samples were collected.

However, the government did not specify the breakdown of the testing methods used. The official website does not mention which tests are carried out in which number. An RT-PCR test is considered a more accurate method to detect COVID-19. Health experts have repeatedly pointed out in several studies that rapid antigenic tests can give false negatives.

“We cannot share anything regarding the different types of COVID-19 testing underway. We were asked not to say anything about official COVID data, ”said a senior health official who wished to remain anonymous.

The Mahagathbandhan opposition, including leftist parties, called for more testing. RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav said Bihar, with an estimated population of nearly 12 crore, had tested far less than expected. He said the state government was playing a “dangerous game” with the COVID-19 test numbers. “The government has increased the screening rate by using rapid antigen tests instead of RT-PCR tests. He mainly performed rapid antigen testing and RT-PCR testing is for the name, ”he said.

According to health officials, RT-PCR facilities are very limited at district headquarters and do not work in several regions. Of all the tests, between 60% and 70% are carried out by rapid antigenic tests while only between 25% and 30% of the tests were carried out via RT-PCR, Click on Newsclick had reported earlier.