Rattled by the biggest single-day spurt yet in COVID-19 cases, Bihar on Wednesday announced fresh lockdown in several regions, including the worst-hit Patna district, that will come into force later this week. Other districts which will go into varying degrees of lockdown are Nawada, West Champaran, East Champaran and Bhagalpur.
According to the state health department's update of the day, 749 people tested positive for the coronavirus in 24 hours, raising the tally to 13,274, while the death toll also touched the three-digit-mark with two fresh casualties. One death each was reported from Araria and Bhagalpur districts though details like age, sex, co-morbidities and the time of death of the patients were not known immediately.
More than a quarter of the fresh cases were from Patna district alone, which saw its tally rise over the previous day by 235 to 1,351. The district also accounts for 12 casualties so far, the highest number for any district, while the number of active cases stands at an alarming 698.
Invoking powers granted under the Bihar Epidemic Disease COVID 19 Regulation, 2020, Patna District Collector-cum-Chairman, district disaster management authority, Kumar Ravi ordered a lockdown from July 10 to July 16 in the entire Patna district. As part of the containment measures, all government and private offices, except those involved in essential services like electricity, water, sanitation, banks, ATMs, telecommunications and petrol pumps shall remain closed for the seven-day period.
The notification issued to this effect also made it clear that "all places of worship shall be closed for public" and "no religious congregations will be permitted, without any exception". Medical establishments, both government and private, and shops dealing in essential items like dairy products, grocery, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish etc. will be allowed to do business during stipulated hours.
In Bhagalpur, the second worst- affected district with a tally of 693, including 215 active cases, and six casualties, the restrictions will come into force from Thursday and continue till July 13. Although the notification issued by the Bhagalpur administration did not use the term lockdown , the restrictions, imposed under the Regulation, were tantamount to the same.
In Nawada, Additional District Collector Om Prakash announced at a press conference that a three-day lockdown will be in force from July 10-12 in view of the worsening situation. Lockdown in West Champaran district will begin on Thursday and continue for a week, while in East Champaran it will come into force on July 10 and remain in place till July 14.
In a statement, Anupam Kumar, the states secretary for Information and Public Relations Department, said that "at a meeting of crisis management group headed by the Chief Secretary, Deepak Kumar, it was decided that all District Magistrates shall be empowered to take measures for preventing the spread of COVID 19".
He also said that the DMs have also been authorized to grant a COVID 19 patient the option of "home isolation" instead of institutional quarantine, provided he or she has the necessary resources. Health secretary Lokesh Kumar Singh said the state at present has 3,632 active cases, while 9,541 patients have been discharged, till date, upon full recovery.
He also underscored the fact that the states recovery rate, 71.88 per cent, was higher than the national average and better than that of most states. The number of samples tested so far is 2.75 lakh, while 6,277 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours.
On Tuesday, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav had alleged that the Nitish Kumar government had deliberately kept the number of testing low so that the extent of spread of the contagion in the densely populated Bihar was not known to the people. Welcoming the "proactive measures" by districts, JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad and BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand flayed the RJD leader for his irresponsible comment .
Meanwhile, a niece of the chief minister, who had been staying at his official residence here, has now tested negative for the virus, an official statement said. She was taken to the isolation ward of a hospital on Monday after found positive. In accordance with the medical advise, she will stay in home quarantine, the statement said.