Bihar covid testing mask swab
A health worker collects swab samples from people for the COVID-19 test, in Patna on Tuesday, November 24. Image Credit: ANI

Patna: The state government in Bihar sounded a special alert for a fortnight from Tuesday following fears of a second wave of deadly coronavirus after several Indian states reported spike in COVID-19 cases.

The alert was sounded by Bihar chief secretary Deepak Kumar at the end of a meeting of the Crisis Management Group. Bihar continues to report steady rise in cases of coronavirus in the aftermath of the month-long election process and end of the long festival season.

“Several Indian states have reported an increase in coronavirus cases. We too have placed the Bihar state on high alert as a precautionary measure after conclusion of state elections and end of long festival season. We have directed the authorities to launch special drives across the state and crack down on the people violating coronavirus guidelines,” state chief secretary Deepak Kumar told the media on Tuesday.

During the alert, authorities have launched a special drive to check if the people are wearing facemasks and prompting them to maintain safety norms. Authorities have also been told to seize the vehicles if the people driving them were caught without facemasks, and seal shops if both the shop owners and customers were found ignoring the safety norms.

Recently more than 40 million voters came out on the streets to cast ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the Election Commission allowed conduct of a polling process which lasted 10 days. Moreover, teeming millions rushed back home to celebrate a series of prominent Hindu festivals such as Durga Puja, Diwali and Chhath in the past month, adding to the worries of the state authorities.

Coronavirus cases have shown steady increase in the past week with capital city Patna being the worst-hit. In the past 24 hours, a total of 412 cases were reported from across the state bringing the total number to 231,044. Patna alone has reported more than 38,000 cases so far.

COVID-19 has claimed 1,227 lives in the state so far. The victims include two ministers, a former federal minister and several top politicians. Such was the impact of COVID-19 that around six star campaigners from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), such as Bihar’s former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Maharashtra’s former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, federal minister Smriti Irani and Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey had to leave the Bihar poll campaign midway after being hit by coronavirus.

The special alert in Bihar assumes significance in the light of coronavirus infection turning critical in some key Indian states such as Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, West Bengal and Rajasthan.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual meeting with the chief ministers of these eight states and cautioned them against any laxity in fighting the pandemic. He called for reducing the positivity rate by focussing on curbing the virus transmission. At the same time, the Prime Minister said India was in a better position than other countries in tackling COVID-19 as a result of joint efforts.