The curious case of coronavirus numbers in Bihar
Is there a special immunity for people living in Bihar? How credible are the Covid-19 numbers of Bihar - a state with nearly 10 crore population? Why does every district in Bihar follow exactly the same pattern in its epidemic curve?
These are some of the questions being asked by the public health researchers who describe the eastern state as a miracle province because of such low Covid-19 numbers despite people's rampant Covid-inappropriate behaviour such as not to wear a mask, not to care for social distancing and thronging the crowded places, and the state's poor health infrastructure.
'Bihar alone has done more than one crore Covid-19 tests so far (10% of India's total tests) and still kept its test positive rate of less than 5% for over two months. It's 2% now. The decline seems to be sustaining. It's remarkable indeed for a resource-poor state! But is this for real?' said health economist Rijo John, a visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode and a consultant to the World Health Organisation.
Surprisingly each of the 38 districts in Bihar without any exception shows a declining trend in the pandemic after a spike in August following the return of thousands of migrant labourers.
Even though the people's mobility in Bihar is as good as the pre-lockdown days in February, there are no corresponding reflections in Covid-19 numbers.
'The numbers are too good to be true even though they look really nice on papers. I fail to understand why there is no spike in Bihar despite such high mobility and epidemic unfriendly behaviour of people,' John told DH.
The state's average test positivity rate is about 2% as it varies from 10% in Patna to 1% in many districts. But surprisingly, the districts with the positivity rate of less than 3% carried out 92% of total tests so far. Patna, Samastipur and East Champaran with a positivity rate of more than 5% did only 7% of all tests.
Also, Patna contributes to 16% of total cases so far and yet contributes to only 4.4% tests in Bihar, whereas, Gaya which contributes only 3% cases has done more than 5% of tests with a positivity rate of 1%. 'There are many unanswered questions on Bihar, considering the state's demography, economy and public health infrastructure,' he said.
Meanwhile, the downward slide in India's Covid-19 numbers stopped on Wednesday with the recording of more than 500 deaths and nearly 44,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. Cumulatively India's Covid-19 caseload numbers crossed the 80 lakh mark Wednesday on even though the epidemic slowed down since September third week.