Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) on Monday (May 4) in a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha highlighted a discrepancy in the number of COVID cases reported by the state in its medical bulletins and its communications with the Centre.
The letter also stated that the state government needs to be “transparent and consistent” in reporting COVID-19 figures.
“The bulletin of April 30 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 & 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,” the letter said.
In addition, the State government admitted on April 30 that 72 COVID patients have expired but classified as death due to co-morbidities.
The team also noted that no evidence was found of the state government’s claim to have surveyed over 50 lakh people in the four districts.
Pointed out that West Bengal has the highest mortality rate in the country at 12.8 per cent the team said, “This extremely high mortality rate is a clear indication of low testing, weak surveillance and tracking.”
According to the state health department, over 6 lakh people were surveyed in containment areas falling in four districts including Purba Midnapur (1,50,447 people), North 24 Parganas (1,77, 654), Howrah (1,76, 960) and KMC (1,31,460) by around 1500 teams.
“While the State government has claimed a very high level of daily surveillance of individuals in containment zones, no database was shown or results made available. During the stay of the committee itself, over 50 lakh persons would have been surveyed in the four districts. Collating and evaluating a database of this magnitude requires very robust systems to be in place. However, no such evidence was available during our stay or field visits,” the letter by the IMCT head Apurva Chandra, Additional Secretary with the Central government read.
The Union Home Ministry constituted IMCTs to visit coronavirus hotspots for assessment, issue directions to combat the spread of the lethal virus in those areas, and submit a report to the Central government.
Meanwhile, the committee commended the efforts made by the State Health Department in increasing the testing rate which was languishing at around 400 per day till April 20 to 2410 per day on May 2.
However, the IMCT chief accused the West Bengal government of taking “an antagonistic view to the IMCT and has not supported the IMCT in the performance of its duties” during its stay in the state.