Mamata writes to Modi about shortage of vaccines and essential medicines, blames outsiders for increase in COVID cases in West Bengal

Published : April 18, 2021 20:46 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee campaigning in Kolkata on April 18. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

With the COVID-19 pandemic assuming alarming proportions in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the second wave of infection. In a letter dated April 18, the Chief Minister drew Modi’s attention to “three specific issues that are of paramount importance” in managing the second wave. The three issues that Mamata identified are short supply of vaccine, lack of supply of essential medicines, and the need for an assured supply of oxygen.

Pointing out that vaccination is of “top importance” particularly in Kolkata “where the density of population is extremely high”, Mamata wrote, “Unfortunately for us, the supply of vaccines from the GOI side has been scarce and erratic, which has been negatively affecting our vaccination programmes. While Bengal is one of the best performers in vaccination, it is now suffering because of uncertainties of supply from the GOI end.”

According to Mamata, the State government has to vaccinate 2.7 crore people, for which it needs 5.4 crore doses. Mamata also reminded the Prime Minister that on February 24 she had requested that he “allow the State to purchase vaccination doses directly with State funds” so it could launch a “massive free vaccination campaign” covering the entire population, but the Centre has not yet given the clearance for it.

In her letter Mamata also appeared to indirectly accuse the BJP and its Central leadership for worsening the crisis during the ongoing Assembly election in the State. “In the meantime, the number of cases in the State has also begun to increase sharply, particularly in view of coming of large numbers of outsiders to the State for election campaign and other purposes at the behest of some political parties,” Mamata stated in her letter. This is an allegation that Mamata has raised against the BJP in her election speeches as well.

The second important issue that the Chief Minister referred to was the scarcity of essential medicines like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab (Actemera) in the State, “which has been a matter of grave concern for doctors here”. “We need around 6,000 vials of Remdesivir and 1,000 vials of Tocilizumab daily. However, at present only 1,000 vials of Remdesivir are available daily and no fresh supply of Tocilizumab is coming. It may kindly be seen that the relevant authorities step up their efforts to ensure steady supply of these most essential medicines as soon as possible,” Mamata stated in her letter.

She also emphasised the need for steady supply of oxygen in the coming days. “SAIL is meeting up our need for the moment, and we shall be grateful if you kindly instruct them too for ensuring steady supplies,” Mamata wrote. She assured the Centre that the State was willing “to extend its resources to the fullest in tandem with the Centre to tackle the pandemic the country is facing now and overcome it”.

On April 18, the number of new cases in West Bengal hit a new record of 8,419, and active cases shot up to 53,976. With 28 deaths recorded on the day, the total death count went up to 10,596. Kolkata recorded the maximum number of new cases at 2,197, followed by North 24 Parganas with 1,860 cases in a single day.