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Bihar under watch, Central team looks at home isolation, testing protocol

Sources said that the team was sent to Bihar after the Centre, which is closely monitoring the situation in states, found that a “disproportionately” large number of its patients were in home isolation.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: August 27, 2020 7:09:44 am
Bihar currently has 19,517 active cases, with an average 2,000-odd cases daily. (File)

BIHAR has come under the Centre’s scanner following concerns about the high number of its Covid-19 patients in home isolation and its testing being “lopsided” in favour of rapid antigen. A Central team that was sent to the state four days ago is set to return with details on these issues.

Bihar currently has 19,517 active cases, with an average 2,000-odd cases daily.

Sources said that the team was sent to Bihar after the Centre, which is closely monitoring the situation in states, found that a “disproportionately” large number of its patients were in home isolation. An official said, “Despite the surge in cases, we suddenly found that a lot of Covid-19-dedicated hospital beds were lying vacant in Bihar. That led to the question as to where these patients are. Are they in home isolation? If yes, are they being monitored on a daily basis on certain pre-set parameters? The Centre’s team will report on what is happening on the ground.”

While the Centre has relaxed the guidelines for home isolation, in multiple meetings with states, including Bihar, it has stressed the need for surveillance of such patients. Bihar was specifically told to follow either the model of Karnataka and Delhi, where a home-care monitoring agency, through a phone-based app, does the twice-daily calls to all patients in home isolation to check if they have any symptoms, or to implement the second model, in which there is a surveillance officer for each district, and anganwadi and ASHA workers physically do house-to-house visits to check for symptoms.

Sources said the other reason for sending the team was the “fairly lopsided” preference for rapid antigen testing as compared to RT-PCR in Bihar. The RT-PCR is the gold standard for testing. Rapid antigen, due to its low sensitivity, results often in false negatives, and the government has said that those who show symptoms after this test must undergo RT-PCR.

On Tuesday, the Centre reiterated this, adding that the national average for rapid antigen testing was around 30-40 per cent of the total tests.

As compared to this, the official pointed out, “Bihar is doing 7,000-8,000 RT-PCR tests and around 50,000-60,000 rapid antigen tests per day (a ratio of around 1:8). There is nothing wrong with that, but the trend is fairly lopsided. We wanted the Central team to find out if there was a follow-up with RT-PCR tests, particularly in the case of those who develop symptoms later.”

Sources said Central teams had also been sent to the Union territories of Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, while a team will be leaving for Srinagar on Thursday. The official said the experts would be looking at Srinagar, Baramulla and Pulwama, where both daily positive numbers and deaths are slightly higher than the state average.

“Also, district-level understanding of containment zones and a surveillance strategy is lacking in (these areas in) Kashmir and Puducherry,” the official said, particularly tracking of close contacts of positive cases.

In Andamans, the Central team is looking at the protocol for “hospital-based care” and standard clinical management, the source said.

Of Bihar’s 19,517 active cases, Patna has the most (2,603), followed by East Champaran (1,073), Muzaffarpur (1,061), Madhubani (996) and Saran (738). The state has seen 519 deaths and has a high recovery rate, of 84.07 per cent.

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