Bihar health secy says huge discrepancies found in Covid-19 test data. Bihar’s principal health secretary Pratyay Amrit on Saturday stated that “serious discrepancies” in Covid-19 test data has been found in Jamui’s Barhat and Sikandra. He also said action has been initiated against concerned officials.
Over three days last month, three Primary Health Centres (PHC) in Bihar’s Jamui district tested 588 residents for Covid — all were negative. The name, age and cell number of each person tested was put down in a chart and sent to Patna where it was aggregated with data from other districts to plot the state’s downward Covid curve. Staring out from these charts, however, are a string of glaring irregularities, an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed.
The Indian Express visited six PHCs in Jamui, Sheikhpura and Patna, and accessed their testing records for January 16, 18 and 25. In Jamui, it tracked down each of the 588 entries at three PHCs for those days, and spoke to several staffers to find that basic data protocol was bypassed in a scramble to meet the daily target — from fudged mobile numbers to fake names and dodgy entries. And, in some cases, to allegedly siphon off profits from unused testing kits.
Some of the key findings of the investigation from official records of tests carried out on those three days:
# Of 230 entries for Barhat in Jamui, only 12 entries were confirmed tested. At the Sikandara PHC in the district, only 43 of 208 entries were confirmed tested.
And in Jamui Sadar, only 65 of the 150 entries could be verified against data recorded.
In Barhat, the cell number used against 14 entries and another for 11 entries tested on January 16 were both invalid. So was the case with another number used for 13 entries for testing on January 25. In Sikandara, cell numbers listed against 16 entries were found invalid.
There is just one mobile number mentioned against as many as 26 who got the RT-PCR tests in Barhat. This number belongs to Baiju Rajak, a daily wager from Shambhuganj in Banka, about 100 km away. “I have no connection to any of these people, no one in my family has got tested for Covid,” Rajak said.
The 26 people with this number include: 11 men, six women and nine children. The names and numbers are being withheld to protect identities.
Records in Sheikhpura district’s Barbigha of January 25 show that Sonali Kumari and Ajeet Kumar tested negative in a Covid test. But the phone number used for them belonged to Vijay Kumar, a sweets shop owner in UP’s Pratapgarh. “I do not know these people and I don’t have any Bihar connection. I have not taken any Covid test,” Kumar told The Indian Express.
Bihar was among the states hardest-hit by the pandemic with the return of over 20 lakh migrant workers as infections peaked in the middle of last year. The state has so far recorded 2,61,447 positive cases with 754 currently active, and 1,518 deaths linked to Covid.
While Patna tops the state’s Covid chart with over 52,000 cases so far, records from Jamui and Sheikhpura show how in several cases, the mobile numbers provided for those tested were owned by unrelated people from other districts or states. In some cases, multiple unrelated persons were listed under one number. In a few cases, numbers used were those of the PHC staffers themselves.