India’s First Election During COVID-19 Pandemic: Experts Point Out Worrying Signs In Bihar

Akshita Jain
·2-min read
A health worker collects a swab sample from a man for coronavirus testing, at Gardiner Hospital, on August 26, 2020 in Patna.
A health worker collects a swab sample from a man for coronavirus testing, at Gardiner Hospital, on August 26, 2020 in Patna.

The political campaign in Bihar, which will be the first state in India to hold assembly elections since the Covid-19 outbreak, began in earnest last week with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar holding a virtual rally and the Congress organising a virtual meeting in East and West Champaran districts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated three petroleum sector projects on Sunday via video conferencing and praised Kumar for ushering in ‘sushasan’ (good governance).

The campaign is picking up steam even as coronavirus cases in the state keep rising. The state has reported over 1.6 lakh cases so far, with 836 deaths. For the past two weeks, Bihar has been reporting more than 1,500-odd cases a day.

While the government maintains that there is no sense of panic in Bihar over the disease, the number of daily cases in the state continues to be a worrying sign. Experts told HuffPost India that panic in the state could be less because the recovery rate is high, but they pointed out that the state’s number of tests per million is still low. Another point of worry is that while Bihar has massively ramped up testing since the initial months, these are mostly antigen tests, which have a higher probability of false negatives.

With the elections due before the end of November, experts also said that no improvement in rate of transmission of virus is likely by then.

According to a government update, the recovery rate of Covid patients has touched more than 90% in the state and the testing capacity has crossed 1 lakh per day. During his rally last week, Nitish Kumar said that 11,350 RT-PCR tests are being done on a daily basis and the government intends to increase it to 20,000 a day. RT-PCR tests, which take longer to process results than antigen tests, are considered the gold standard, but Kumar’s count suggests that the state still has a long way to go to catch up to the number of antigen tests it’s conducting.

Last week, the central government...

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