Coronavirus in India: At 12.8%, West Bengal has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the country, says central team

The Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) sent by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has conveyed its preliminary findings to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha in a letter on Monday. The letter mentions that the mortality rate due to COVID-19 is 12.8%, which is by far the highest in the country and shows weak surveillance and low testing.

The letter is written by Apurba Chandra, who is heading one of the two IMCTs. While Chandra mentions non-cooperation from the West Bengal government’s side as compared to other state governments where IMCTs were sent, his team’s findings also raises certain discrepancies.

The letter questions the actual figures of COVID-19 cases and deaths reflected by the state government in its daily health bulletins, compared to the figures given to the Centre. “The bulletin of 30.4.2020 showed active COVID cases as 572, discharged after treatment 139 and expired due to COVID 33, making 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,” reads the letter.

“In addition it was admitted on 30.4.2020 that 72 COVID patients have expired but classified as death due to comorbidities. This number does not seem to find reflection in the figure of 744. The State needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting the figures and not downplay the spread of the virus,” the letter further adds.

The IMCT also says there was no reflection of daily surveillance in the four districts that the IMCT had visited for spot surveillance.  

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O'Brien spoke about the one team sent by the Health department from the Centre, saying that things are under control. “Bengal, Telangana, Tamil Nadu one team has been sent. This confirms that the situation in Bengal is going well, as we took precautions in March. Unfortunately the ruling party’s fake factories were spreading misinformation. Bengal working with the Kerala model to handle COVID-19, we took precautionary measures,” he said.

The TMC however chose not to respond to West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee where he lashes out at the State’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Governor and Mamata have been at loggerheads for weeks, with letters being exchanged back and forth, apart from allegations made by the Governor on social media.  

West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha clarified on Monday evening that West Bengal had so far tested 25,116 samples. 5.8 lakhs PPEs have been distributed, alongside 3.15 lakh masks, 22 lakhs simple masks, 1.27 lakh litre sanitiser, 11.5 lakh gloves and 20,000 thermal guns. He added that 4860 people were under government quarantine, while 5755 were under home quarantine.

“All figures come from Dept of Family Welfare. Our Reporting structure was complicated. Figures passed from multiple places. ICMR figure is giving total testing figure, not COVID-19 positive cases. What we report is number of cases,” he clarified, adding that the state was now getting real time data and had “found out all missing data”.

According to him, there have been 1,259 confirmed cases recorded in total in West Bengal. Of these, 218 have been discharged and there remains 908 active coronavirus cases today. He added that the state had a 17.32% recovery rate, and was conducting 279 tests per million.

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