Images of campaigning in Bihar have suggested scant regard for what continues to be a raging Covid-19 pandemic. An HT analysis and expert views suggest that Bihar’s dubious testing strategy and poor medical infrastructure, combined with the time lag that could exist between a spread in infections and showing up of actual cases, could make it difficult to ascertain the impact of the polls on the pandemic. As the verdict on the election of the next government in the state is scheduled for Tuesday, we take a look at the challenges that face the next ruling dispensation.
The number of daily new Covid-19 cases in Bihar has been decreasing for more than two months after hitting a peak of over 4,000 new infections on August 11. It has reported only about 500 new cases per day on average recently. Bihar has also seen a big increase in the number of tests conducted. It has conducted more than11 million Covid-19 tests, second to only Uttar Pradesh. In terms of tests per million people, Bihar stood behind 31 states and union territories by the end of August, when it had conducted 4,586 tests per million people, nearly a fourth of the average.
By the end of October, Bihar had tested 88,941 per million people, higher than the national average of 86,325, and now behind only 19 states. The growth in the number of tests has come with a drop in the positivity rate, which is the share of tests that come positive. It peaked at 17% at the end of July and has been less than 2% for about two months now. The World Health Organization says the positivity rate from a region that has a comprehensive testing programme should be at or below 5% for at least two weeks before it can be considered that the outbreak is under control.