Eight non-resident Bengali medical professionals have written an open letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is also the health minister of the state. The letter expresses concern over low testing rates, low figures of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths being portrayed in public domain, which suggests that truth is being suppressed and hence things could only get worse in West Bengal. Reports in national and international media too have been cited.
“In the last week and a half, we have come across or watched with growing concerns, reports on the COVID-19 situation in West Bengal. There are two more specific issues that are more disturbing to us. The gross under-testing in West Bengal and the misreporting of data on the cause of death in COVID-19 patients. We are aware of first-hand reports on these issues from physician groups treating COVID-19 patients in government hospitals in Kolkata, as well as reports from public safety and law enforcement officials on social media, national and international press,” reads the letter.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has faced flak on social media for their decision to ban the use of mobile phones inside hospitals. The announcement was made by state Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha on Wednesday. “Novel coronavirus spreads through mobile phones and a decision has been taken as per WHO guidelines, to control the spread of the infection. All doctors, medical staff and patients have been asked to deposit their mobile phones outside and collect it while leaving the hospital,” said Rajiva Sinha.
There is sense amongst people in Kolkata and even those residing outside the state, that the West Bengal government is hiding the actual number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) which has sent two inter-ministerial central teams(IMCT) for a spot assessment of the COVID-19 situation in Kolkata and seven affected districts, has listed out hotspot zones in their letter to the state Chief Secretary.
The letter sent on Wednesday by Apurba Chandra, who is leading one of the IMCTs, asks for cooperation and support of a local officer to visit hotspot zones in Kolkata and the districts. These include localities, markets, hospitals and quarantine centres.