COVID-19: Opposition Accuses Bihar Health Minister of Lying

Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey. Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express

Patna: Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey has found himself in the eye of the storm over COVID-19 testing data tabled by him in the state assembly during the single-day monsoon session earlier this month.

On Thursday, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav accused Pandey of having lied and misled the House.

It is a known fact that Bihar has been conducting less than ten percent of the total COVID-19 tests using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits. It was confirmed by none other than Chief Minister Nitish Kumar two days ago.

The CM has already demanded help from the Central government in order to increase RT-PCR testing to one lakh tests per day.

After facing flak over the lowest COVID-19 testing rate in the country, the Bihar government has increased testing in the last two weeks, primarily through a rapid antigen detection kit. However, despite Bihar increasing its testing rate since the end of July, it is still lagging behind. The state’s tests-per-million people was 9,180 on August 10, one of the lowest in the country, less than the national average of 18,086.

However, contradicting the CM’s earlier comments, Pandey, a senior BJP leader, claimed in the state assembly that more than 50 % of the total COVID-19 testing was conducted through RT-PCR kits.

On August 3, Pandey told the state assembly: “Of the total 6.12 lakh total tests carried out till August 1, 3.24 lakh are through RT-PCR, 1.10 lakh through TrueNat machines and 1.78 lakh through rapid antigen detection (RAD) kit.”

Mounting his attack, Tejashwi said Pandey lied in the state assembly in order to manipulate testing data and keep people in the dark.

Tejashwi said that Pandey had lied in the Bihar assembly. “The Chief Minister has informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (August 10) in a video conference that the state is conducting over 75,000 tests per day. However, testing through RT-PCR is hovering around the 6,100 mark,he said.

The state has an installed capacity of testing 10,700 samples per day through RT-PCR kits. It can potentially increase its capacity to 13,000 tests per day.

Tejashwi’s attack comes at a time when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Nitish Kumar has faced flak for its lack of ability to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.

According to officials of the state health department, of the 6,100 daily tests through RT-PCR kits, around 4,900 samples are tested in seven government-run laboratories and about 1,200 samples are tested in three private laboratories. Between 4,000 to 5,000 tests are being done through TrueNat machines. Officials say that between 70,000 to 75000 samples are tested through rapid antigen detection kits.

According to the official Twitter handle of the Health Department – on August 11 – Bihar had tested 92,414 samples. As of now, Bihar has conducted more than 13 lakh tests.

Nitish Kumar has already instructed officials to increase RT-PCR testing.

With COVID-19 cases and related deaths continuing to rise in Bihar, opposition leaders including Tejashwi, accused Nitish Kumar and Mangal Pandey of lying to manipulate data. “The NDA government has been hiding the truth about COVID-19 testing and lying to the people,” he said.

Bihar had 94,459 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on August 13, with the total death toll due to the virus at 474. The state reported 3,906 new cases on Thursday. With that, it became the state with the eight-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. There are 33,916 active cases in the state at the moment and the recovery rate is 66.33%.

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