Bihar was rattled by a spurt of COVID-19 cases on Thursday after 19 people tested positive for the infection, taking the total number to 58, even as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar urged citizens not to "hide" their travel history. Siwan district emerged as a hotspot, accounting for 17 of the fresh cases, all but one of them members of the same family in Raghunathpur block, which has been sealed by the local administration and from where close to
100 samples were collected and rushed to the state capital for testing.
The 16 COVID-19 patients from Raghunathpur include a 10-year-old boy, three girls aged between 11 and 12, nine women in the age group of 19 and 50 and two men, aged 19 and 60.
According to Principal Secretary, Health, Sanjay Kumar, all of them had caught the contagion from a coronavirus patient who had travelled to Oman.
Besides, another 36-year-old male from of the district, with a travel history to Dubai, tested positive for the virus.
The total number of cases from Siwan has now reached 27 - close to half of the statewide aggregate of 58.
The remaining two cases, both boys in their teens, have been reported from Begusarai.
They are residents of a village in the Teghra block and are believed to have got infected by two youths of the same age group, who had tested positive on Tuesday.
According to Begusarai District Magistrate Arvind Kumar Verma, none of the four boys was known to have any recent travel history, but they were said to have been interacting with clerics at a local mosque and samples were collected after the village head informed the police a few days ago that the two had developed symptoms.
Verma did not rule out the possibility of a connection with the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which has been blamed for a large number of COVID-19 cases across the country and the Delhi headquarter of which has emerged as a hotspot.
In Nawada, where a man with a travel history to Delhi had tested positive for the infection on Wednesday, District Magistrate Yashpal Meena said information has been sought from the national capital as to whether the 38-year-old had taken part in the religious congregation last month.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar issued a fervent appeal to the people of the state -- "Do not hide your travel history, whether outside Bihar or abroad".
At a meeting where he reviewed the COVID-19 situation in the state, Kumar called for intensive screening of the places coronavirus patients might have come in contact with, and following of "full medical protocol in the areas that have been identified as hotspots".
The chief minister also instructed officials to speed up the process of tracing and testing contacts of COVID-19 patients.
He reiterated the need for maintaining social distancing under all circumstances and hoped that people would stay at their homes as far as possible and take necessary precautions.
According to the state health department, of the cases confirmed in Bihar so far, 17 have recovered while one patient has died.
The recovered patients include six from Munger and five from Patna, leaving the two districts with zero active cases as of now.
All cases from Munger were traced to the sole deceased patient of the state who passed away on March 21, suffering from renal failure, a day before test results showed he was also COVID-19 positive.
Three hospitals in the state, one each at Patna, Bhagalpur and Gaya, have been dedicated to the treatment of coronavirus patients.