COVID mortality rate in Bengal is highest in the country: Central team

Published : May 04, 2020 20:04 IST

At New Alipore, a hotspot adjoining Koklata, screening for COVID-19 being done at the doorstep.

The Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCT) that have been touring West Bengal’s COVID-affected regions for the past two weeks left for Delhi on May 4, but not before making their “final observations” to Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha. In the letter the IMCT stated that the mortality rate among COVID patients in Bengal, at 12.8 per cent, was by far the highest in the country and that this was a “clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking”.

The IMCT’s calculation was done on the basis of the State government’s announcement on April 30 that the total death count of COVID patients in the State was 105 and the total number of COVID patients was 816. According to the State government, however, only 33 people had died of COVID (as of April 30), while the other 72 COVID-positive patients had died of co-morbidities as claimed by the State government-appointed Audit Committee.

In its final letter, the IMCT reiterated its earlier complaint that it had received no assistance from the State administration during its stay in Bengal. “In short the State government has taken an antagonistic view to the IMCT and has not supported the IMCT in the performance of its duties. This contrasts with the experience of IMCTs deputed to other States at the same time…,” the letter stated.

Two IMCT teams arrived in West Bengal on April 20 following allegations of rampant violation of the nationwide lockdown in different parts of the State. Peeved at the “unilateral action” of the Centre, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made it clear that her government would not cooperate with the Central teams. Although the State administration apparently capitulated after a stern letter from the Home Ministry, allegations of non-cooperation were repeatedly raised by the IMCTs.

The letter also pointed to the “discrepancy” in the number of COVID cases as stated by the State in its medical bulletins and its communications with the Centre. “The bulletin of 30.04.2020 showed active COVID cases as 572; discharged after treatment, 139; and expired due to COVID, 33, making for a total of 744. In a communication to the Union Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) from the Principal Secretary (Health) on the same day, the total number of cases was indicated to be 931, leading to a discrepancy of 187 cases. In addition, it was admitted on 30.04.2020 that 72 COVID patients have expired but classified as death due to co-morbidities. This number does not seem to find a reflection in the figure of 744,” said the letter, adding that the State government “needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not downplay the spread of the virus.”

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