While everyone is talking about the uneasy COVID-19 situation in places like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the state of Bihar is slowly creeping up on the radar of places that could turn out to be a major COVID-19 hotspot if the situation is not addressed soon. As per the latest figures issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Bihar has crossed the 20,000 mark in the number of cases.
Out of the 20,612 COVID-19 cases that have been reported thus far in Bihar, only 6,970 people have recovered while over 13,400 people are still infected. Bihar has also seen 180 deaths due to COVID-19. This puts Bihar's recovery rate at a mere 33 per cent, much lower than the national average. The figures, of course, are subject to grave scrutiny with several reports suggesting that the amount of testing in the state is nowhere near-optimal.
If these figures got you wondering, the situation on ground is even worse. Several Indian states are now having to deal with rising number of COVID-19 cases and many of them have done quite a good job at that (For example -- Delhi). But Visuals acquired by India TV from Bihar's Supaul district do not generate hope.
Visuals from outside a COVID-19 specialty hospital show how the doctors have to get in and out of the hospital on a thela.
Speaking to India TV, Dr Amarindar Kumar, who works at the hospital said, "We currently have 2 COVID-19 positive patients. Because the area is flooded with water, the patients are treated on the first floor, we have to travel in and out of the hospital on thelas."
"Even patients, when they are supposed to be taken in or out, are taken through the thelas. Ambulance is gone right now so we have no option but to use thelas," he added.
Looking at the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the Bihar government has decided to impose a lockdown till July 31. Announcing the decision, Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said, "Lockdown to be imposed in the state from 16 to 31 July to curb the spread of COVID-19. Guidelines are being prepared."
A government order said restrictions between July 16 and July 31 will remain applicable to all district, sub-division and block headquarters and municipal areas. Government offices, private and commercial establishments, barring some exceptions, and places of religious worship and educational institutions will remain closed.
The state government order, which cited a Ministry of Home Affairs communication of June 29 for containment of the pandemic, also said the decision was taken in view of the "alarming surge in COVID 19 cases...in last three weeks".
Over 30 lakh migrants from different parts of the country have returned to Bihar and many of them have been found infected with the virus.
Two state ministers and several MLAs have also tested positive for the virus.
At BJP state headquarters in Patna, more than 20 people, including four senior office-bearers, have tested positive for COVID-19, its Bihar unit chief Sanjay Jaiswal said.
Transport services "will remain suspended" during the lockdown though ferrying of taxis and auto-rickshaws will be allowed. Industrial establishments will be allowed to function and construction activities will be permitted with strict adherence to social distancing norms and wearing of masks.
Agricultural activities, along with shops relating to the same, will also be allowed to function.
Air and rail traffic will remain functional and transportation of goods, including loading and unloading at warehouses, "will be allowed without any hindrance".
Those plying their vehicles for commuting to and from their places of work will be required to carry their I-cards.
The order passed by a special secretary to the state government "supersedes all orders issued by district magistrates concerned in their respective area of jurisdiction" and the DMs "cannot dilute restrictions but, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities in areas outside containment zones".
Lockdowns have been in place in nearly a quarter of the states 38 districts, for the past few days, clamped by the local administrations.