The Bihar government is “closely monitoring” Covid testing data in the state and has “taken appropriate action” in cases where irregularities have been found, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said in the Assembly Tuesday.
THE BIHAR government is “closely monitoring” Covid testing data in the state and has “taken appropriate action” in cases where irregularities have been found, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said in the Assembly Tuesday.
The Chief Minister’s comments came after the RJD raised the issue of alleged “manipulation” in testing data. The main Opposition party had earlier raised the issue in Rajya Sabha and pointed to the findings of an investigation by The Indian Express that found several gaps in data compiled by Primary Health Centres in at least four districts, including fudging of contact details essential for tracing those tested.
“I have been keeping track of Covid testing data each day…. Whenever irregularities have been reported, we have taken appropriate action. We have been closely monitoring it,” the Chief Minister said. He also said that it was the “responsibility of public representatives” to send feedback and suggestions, and even inform his office directly about any anomaly.
The Indian Express investigation had tracked over 2,000 entries in testing data compiled by 11 Primary Health Centres and hospitals in four districts — Jamui, Sheikhpura, Patna and Bhagalpur — and found that basic protocols were breached in a scramble to meet daily targets.
In several cases, the investigation found, the mobile numbers provided for those tested were owned by unrelated people from other districts or states. In some cases, several unrelated persons were listed under one number. In a few cases, numbers used were those of the PHC staffers themselves.
In Bhagalpur, for instance, 1,438 entries for RT-PCR tests with 10 zeroes listed as their mobile numbers.
The Chief Minister said: “In several places and instances, people do not have mobile phones and hence, 10 zeroes could have been entered…But we are getting any anomalies investigated.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, data entry staff had blamed PHC staff, claiming that they “have to enter 10 zeroes to upload and validate the data in the system in cases where PHCs do not fill in cell numbers”. But district officials acknowledged that the sheer scale of such entries, especially at PHCs located in towns, needs to be probed. In fact, in two cases at Jamui, the mobile number, according to records investigated by The Indian Express, was 0200000000.
The findings prompted the Centre to ask Bihar for a detailed report while the state set up probe teams and suspended nine Health personnel from Jamui district. The state government has also directed its health officials to conduct tests only after verifying valid identity cards.
On Tuesday, the Chief Minister also said that he has asked the Principal Secretary (Health) to “review the situation and increase testing and encourage people to get tested”. He said it was “satisfying” that Bihar had a 99.2 per cent Covid recovery rate, with Covid-linked deaths at a little over 0.5 per cent.
Earlier, Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Prasad Yadav said: “There had been manipulation in Covid testing data…. Despite all the tall claims made by the state government on governance, data by NITI Ayog has raised concerns over Bihar’s poor health indices and poor performance of National Rural Health Mission.”
Records till February 21 show that Bihar has tested 2.24 crore samples so far, and currently has only 560 active cases.
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