The centre has directed the Bihar government to follow containment zone guidelines, upgrade medical infrastructure and focus on increasing testing levels in its battle to contain the infectious COVID-19 virus.
The triple reminder comes amid a steady surge in cases in the state; over 1,100 new cases were reported on Monday, taking the caseload past 27,000 and active cases to nearly 10,000.
The Bihar COVID-19 crisis, which includes allegations of mishandling and fudging of data, prompted the centre to send a three-man team to the state this week to assess the situation.
“We have requested the state to strictly enforce Government of India guidelines for containment zones in Bihar. The lockdown phase in Bihar must be used to upgrade hospital infrastructure and increase medical staff. Testing must also be increased,” Lav Agarwal, Joint Health Secretary, said Tuesday.
Mr Agarwal led the team that toured Bihar for two days.
The centre’s observations are being seen by many as an indictment of state health services and a censure of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s handling of the outbreak.
The centre’s visit also came amid a rush of videos highlighting the burden on the state’s heath infrastructure and alleged mishandling of the bodies of COVID-19 victims.
This morning a video from the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna – the state’s primary COVID-19 centre – raised yet more questions about the management of patients and bodies.
This was the second video to emerge from the hospital in 48 hours.
Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey admitted it was a “cause for concern” but told NDTV that “we have to follow protocols”.
To control the virus, the Chief Minister, who was tested (it was negative) for COVID-19 after a relative staying at his residence was infected, placed the state under lockdown from July 16 to July 31.
“There is no medicine or vaccine for coronavirus. We have to ensure that we cover our faces with masks, handkerchiefs or towels,” Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said while announcing the lockdown.
Nitish Kumar has also been accused, by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, of “playing havoc with the lives of 12.6 crore Biharis”. Mr Yadav also criticised the Bihar government’s poor testing figures, something the team from the centre referred to.
Bihar is testing around 2,600 people per million as compared to the national average of around 9,000. Mr Pandey told NDTV the delay in testing results was due to several labs being closed for days due to infection among lab staff and doctors working there.