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The Bihar government has made it mandatory for passengers coming to Patna from three Indian states to produce negative PCR reports on arrival in a move aimed at checking spread of the coronavirus. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Patna: Amid surging COVID-19 cases in the country, the Bihar government has made it mandatory for passengers coming to Patna from three Indian states to produce negative PCR reports on arrival in a move aimed at checking spread of the coronavirus. The government also made it clear that the PCR reports should not be older than 72 hours.

Such test reports have been made mandatory for people coming from Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab, the Indian states worst affected by COVID-19. The Patna district magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh has even shot off a formal letter to the Patna airport director asking him to inform the airport authorities of these three states about the new advisory so that passengers travelling to Bihar carried the copies of “No Covid” reports with them before boarding the flights to Patna.

“We are keeping a close watch on passengers coming from these three states since they have reported the largest number of COVID-19 cases recently,” the Patna DM said. He added the passengers coming from three states were also being directed to go for home quarantine for 10 days even if they produce Covid-negative reports.

Rapid increase

Patna airport director BCH Negi said the order has been put into action. “The passengers failing to produce negative RT-PCR reports are being forced to undergo rapid antigen tests at the airport. If positive, they are being sent to the institutional quarantine and further medical care is being provided to them,” the airport director said.

With the rapid increase in the coronavirus cases, the hospitals in Patna are facing acute shortage of oxygen cylinders as their demand has registered a seven-fold rise. The situation is such that the life-saving oxygen cylinders are being sold in black at an exorbitant rate.

“Till last fortnight, we were receiving the demand for 100 cylinders per day. Now, we are getting the demand for 700 cylinders per day but we are unable to meet this demand,” said Shekhar Pandey who makes supply of oxygen cylinders to the city hospitals.

A hospital official said the oxygen suppliers are charging much as their demand has registered an increase after spikes in COVID-19 cases. “We are being charged Rs8,500-Rs9,000 for a single 10.5 litre cylinder which was available for Rs6,000 earlier,” he said wishing not to be quoted.

An official from Sri Sain Hospital Dr Ashutosh said they were battling hard to arrange for cylinders to save the lives of the patients. “We have the daily requirements of at least 150 oxygen cylinders but are currently being supplied only 50,” Dr Ashutosh said.

A staff at Samay Hospital in Patna Ziaul Haque said they are not admitting new patients since they are facing scarcity of oxygen cylinders. He said two of the patients, including a State Bank of India official, quit the hospitals for the same reason. The owner of Jagdish Memorial, Dr Alok has registered a formal complaint with the local state administration and urged it to ensure the supply of the cylinders lest they would be compelled to refuse admission of patients.

“We have a total of 28 COVID-19 patients admitted to our hospital but we were left with only two cylinders on Wednesday evening. Somehow we managed 20 cylinders by exploiting our contacts but they will exhaust by Thursday evening,” Dr Alok informed.

The Patna district magistrate has directed the agencies supplying oxygen cylinders to ensure their supply on priority basis. He also directed the local sub-divisional magistrate to ensure smooth supply of them.

ICUs full

Another problem for the patients is that 90 per cent of ventilators and 85 per cent of the ICUs are full in the city hospitals, making the situation tougher for them. According to the report, there are a total of 79 ICU beds in three top hospitals in Patna, of which 64 are already full. The three top hospitals are AIIMS-Patna, Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH). The state government is now trying to set up 50-bed ICUs at another premier health facility in Patna.

Bihar recorded the highest single-day spike of 4,786 cases on Wednesday with Patna being the worst affected. The health authorities said the state registered a 17.7 per cent jump in active cases in the past 24 hours. The mortality rate has also gone up by 1.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, the health department in neighbouring Jharkhand state has confirmed the presence of “UK mutant” and “double variant” strain of coronavirus. A statement issued by the Jharkhand government said out of 52 samples sent for genome sequencing to the Institute of Life Science in Bhubaneshwar, 13 were found to have mutant coronavirus. Of the 13, eight are male and remaining females. They hail from Ranchi and Jamshedpur towns.