Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal are going to be the next coronavirus hotspots. And the situation will be disastrous

Growth in the number of cases is frightening

At a time when the doubling rate of Coronavirus infection has been constantly improving with the slowing trajectory of COVID-19 across the country, three states in the Eastern parts of India- West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, have suddenly set warning bells ringing.

Scientists at the Chennai-based Institute of Mathematical Sciences found some perplexing results after carrying out computer modelling results. The results show that while the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal have a combined case-load of less than 1,200, the three states are witnessing the highest rate of growth in COVID-19 cases across the country.

At the root of the sudden apprehensions of these three states suddenly picking up in terms of the Coronavirus outbreak is the high reproduction numbers, that is, the number of people who are infected on an average from an already infected person.

Sitabhra Sinha from the Chennai-based institution has said, “The absolute numbers in these states (West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand) are still quite low, so they do not seem to be an immediate problem. But I think they need to be taken note of. West Bengal, in particular, stands out even among the three. At the end of March, the growth rate in West Bengal was showing signs of flattening, but now it seems to be on a completely different trajectory. In fact, if we just look at the growth curves in a non-rigorous fashion, it would appear that West Bengal is following the Maharashtra numbers with a lag of three weeks.”

This latest revelation though worrying is not at all shocking given the callousness and abject inefficiency of these three states that has reduced them into ticking time bombs. If we take one state at a time, we would realise how weak and uninterested political leadership has landed them in deep trouble.

Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal)

The doubling rate in India has now improved to 15, showing how the country has been a phenomenally successful in breaking the chain of the spread of the Coronavirus contagion and has managed to keep the Pandemic in check. However, in West Bengal the Coronavirus doubling rate stood at a scary 7.13 days between April 23 to April 27.

From China’s experience we know that the flow of information is crucial in checking the Coronavirus Pandemic. But the Mamata Banerjee government favoured cover-ups over free flow of information, and opacity over transparency. Going full Xi Jinping, the Mamata Banerjee government harassed a doctor who spoke up about lack of poor PPEs.

Videos of people in PPEs burying a dead body who had supposedly died of a cardiac arrest, an expert committee of doctors to decide if a COVID-19 patient died of the Wuhan virus or “co-morbidities”, guided tour to the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) sent to West Bengal and fewer test samples, everything in West Bengal speaks of mishandling the public health emergency and brutal cover-ups.

And now the results are for everyone to see, as the entire country is coming out of COVID-19, West Bengal is entering the crisis.

Nitish Kumar (Bihar)

The JD(U) supremo doesn’t boast of an impressive track record when it comes to handling catastrophes- the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak, floods and the Dengue outbreak, all of them being glaring examples of Nitish Kumar’s gross inefficiency in dealing with disasters that have hit the state in recent memory.

COVID-19 response has been no better, and the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government’s has been lacklustre from the very beginning. Initially, the state government started collecting samples at snail’s pace and there were also delays in testing results that only set it up for worse.

Later, there were reports of 640 Tablighi Missionaries attending a religious gathering at a Nalanda Markaz in Bihar from March 14 to 15. For a long time, their whereabouts couldn’t be traced triggering panic of a major outbreak as this revivalist Islamist group has been responsible for creating Coronavirus clusters across the country.

Hemant Soren (Jharkhand)

While Chief Ministers like Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal take all the blame, Hemant Soren’s performance in Jharkhand has been no less appalling.

For a long time, the state did not even start its battle against the novel Coronavirus and by early April the number of tests in the state stood at a dismal 911, with detection of only two COVID-19 cases. Even now, the Jharkhand government lags behind terribly in terms of testing with a rate of 261 tests per million as opposed to a national average of roughly 638 tests per million population.

The low number of cases- 110 confirmed cases in Jharkhand could therefore be grossly misleading, especially when the Chennai based institution has confirmed that Jharkhand has one of the highest reproduction numbers.

However, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren paints a sorry picture by constantly requesting urgent help from the Centre and saying, “Jharkhand is a small, poor and backward state and needs urgent help from the Centre as per our demands.” Thus, while the state stares into a crippling public health emergency, the Chief Minister wants to pass the buck on to the Centre.

Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar are therefore three states which might end up becoming the next COVID-19 hotspots, even as the political leadership in these three Eastern states have clearly failed them.