COVID-19 virus spread in Patna not because of migrants, but due to social functions, lack of awareness, says study

The study was conducted by retired civil servant K.C. Saha and published by the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute.

There had been no major spread of the COVID-19 pandemic because of migrants in Patna district of Bihar but “lack of awareness about social distancing and wearing of masks by people resulted in the quick spread of the virus”, said a sociological study.

Marriages and other social functions too contributed largely to this spread, added the study “Learning From COVID-19 cases — A Sociological Study of Patna District, Bihar” done by retired civil servant K.C. Saha and published by the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI).

Over 25 lakh migrants had returned to Bihar during March 2020 and June 2021 from across the country and were said to be the carrier of the deadly virus.

The study has also recommended several measures for further action to “strengthen efforts to handle such pandemics in future”.

“Despite the return of such large number of migrants, there had not been any major spread of COVID-19 virus due to them”, said the 36-page study paper while adding, “the lack of awareness about social distancing and wearing of masks by people, however, resulted in the quick spread of the virus”.

“Intermingling of people in busy markets, marriages and other social functions contributed largely to the spread of the virus. Infection among women increased during marriages as there is a custom in Bihar of group singing by ladies for the whole night for a few days before the wedding date,” the study said.

The study also revealed that maximum number of positive cases among men was in July 2020 and April 2021 in the age group of 21-40 and 41-60.

‘Negligible spread in slums’

The data of 23,344 positive cases of Patna town also implies that the Sars-Cov2 virus spread was negligible in slum areas but “severe in town”.

“None of the slums reported a single case of COVID-19, whereas many VIP areas of town reported a number of cases. Except for 3-4 persons, none of the 7,300 sanitary staff of the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC), who mostly stay in slums, or their family members had been affected by COVID-19”, the study said.

“Remote panchayats had only few cases of COVID-19. It has been learnt that panchayats in the Tal area of Mokama block (where waterlogging is witnessed for six months in a year) had no COVID-19 cases,” added the study.

Epidemic preparedness

Mr. Saha, a retired IAS officer and former Lokayukta member, Bihar, has also made few recommendations in the study for further action and to strengthen efforts to handle such pandemics in future.

“It will be useful to prepare Health Disaster Management Plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) based on the experience of COVID-19 and continuously updating those plans based on new evidence to enhance epidemic preparedness in the State. The SOPs should include constitution of Emergency Operating Centre and the Technical Advisory Committee at the State and the District level,” suggested the study.

“The health infrastructure like Additional Primary Health Centres, Primary Health Centres, Community Health Centres and District hospitals need to be strengthened, and in order to strengthen the health infrastructure, it may be necessary to increase the budgetary allocation for the health sector in the State,” it added further.

The study would be helpful in identifying some of the probable factors contributing directly and indirectly to the spread of the pandemic and its recommendations, which the State government may adopt, would be more efficient in planning COVID-19 emergency responses and may reduce its impact on vulnerable population, said Prabhat P. Ghosh, director of the Centre for Health Policy, ADRI.

The study further suggested “strengthening of the system of Disease Surveillances and Laboratory Testing Infrastructure through proper training of key officials”.

“Besides, it would be desirable to have a Public Health Management Cadre at the State, district and the bloc level. It will also be necessary to have a Data Management Team in the health facilities. Proper monitoring of cases of home isolation should be done,” it said.

The study has also suggested “involvement of Panchayati Raj institution in health crisis, establishing linkages with rural health practitioners and other private doctors, preparation of panchayat health maps which includes every minute health details of a panchayat, research on public health, training of health personnel, regular national and regional level workshops on COVID-19 and a suitable protocol for disposal of biomedical waste”.

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