The Mamata Banerjee led-government in West Bengal is facing allegations of data masking after it issued a ‘clarification’ and flip-flopped on the COVID- 19 figures to 34 from 53 on Wednesday (April 2).
West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha on Wednesday evening lowered the numbers of the positive coronavirus cases announced by COVID-19 expert committee and the official bulletin of the State Health department.
“The expert committee had put the number of COVID-19 cases to 53. But this needs slight explanation. Out of the 53 cases, three after getting cured have returned home, bringing the number of active positive cases to 50. Out of these 50, nine have tested negative in the second test, which takes the number further down to 41. Of the 41, seven have died,” Sinha clarified.
However, the state has not yet attributed all the deaths as COVID-19 fatalities..
Sinha claimed that it is not right to attribute all the casualties to COVID-19 as four of the deceased had co-morbidities such as kidney and heart ailments. “They were hospitalised with other complications. So, it cannot be conclusively claimed that they died due to coronavirus infection. Such hurriedly drawn conclusion may create panic,” he added.
Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too refuted the media reports claiming seven COVID-19 deaths in the state.
“Only three people have been confirmed to have died. The rest are not yet confirmed. Please don’t say they died of coronavirus, if there is no confirmation. It’s not okay to do this to promote the names of some nursing homes. There are some disaster laws in the country,” she told media.
The state is also not clear on the home quarantine numbers. The health department on March 31 revised its home quarantine numbers to 10,313, hours after claiming that more than one lakh people were kept in home surveillance across.
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“Covering up real facts”
Frequent reversal of figures has prompted the opposition parties like BJP and the CPI (M) to accuse the state government of data fidgeting.
BJP leader Rahul Sinha and CPI (M) legislator Sujan Chakraborty told a local television channel that Mamata government is repeating what it did during 2017 dengue outbreak.
They were referring to dengue outbreak in the state in 2017, when the state government was forced to revise the death toll figures after a petition was filed at the Calcutta High Court, alleging that the government was hiding the actual figures of deaths.
The government had initially claimed that only 19 people died of the fever (without mentioning dengue), while 18,135 were affected in the state between January 1 and November 9, 2017. But later Advocate General (AG) told a division bench of the Calcutta high court that since January, 23 people had died of dengue at government hospitals and 15 at private hospitals and that over 1.3 lakh people had been tested positive for dengue in the state.