KOLKATA: Seven people succumbed to COVID-19 in West Bengal taking the total number of deaths directly due to the disease to 160, state home secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said on Saturday.
At least 115 new cases of coronavirus were reported during the same period taking the total number of confirmed cases to 2,576, he said, adding that there are at the moment 1,452 active cases in the state.
Of the seven deaths, three each were reported from the city and neighbouring Howrah and one from South 24 Parganas district, bulletin of the state health department released later stated.
It also elaborated that 65 people from the metropolis tested positive for the COVID-19.
At least 17 people from Howrah, 15 from North 24 Parganas and 10 and 6 from Hooghly and Malda districts respectively tested positive for the disease, the bulletin added.
There were 7,745 samples tested on Friday and the total number of such tests is 77,288, he added.
Bandyopadhyay said that the positivity rate in the state is at 3.33 per cent, better than the national figure.
Since Friday evening, 63 people have been discharged from different hospitals after they recovered from the disease taking the total number of such people to 892.
There were 72 more deaths due to comorbidities where coronavirus were incidental, he added.
Meanwhile, three women patients at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Saturday tested positive after giving birth, hospital sources said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday reached out to migrant workers returning to the state during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown and announced that her government will bear the entire cost of their journey by special trains.
She also pledged a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of three people from the state who were among the 24 killed in a road accident in Uttar Pradesh.
The opposition BJP and CPI(M) dubbed the announcement as the TMC government's "crisis management" with an eye on the next year's state polls as it had failed to act on time.
The issue of bringing back migrant labourers and stranded people to West Bengal had snowballed into a political one with the BJP and the Centre rapping the state for not taking adequate measures to ferry them home.
The TMC in its turn had blamed the Centre's "botched up lockdown" and "arrogant" approach for the suffering of lakhs of migrant workers across the country.
As per the present policy formulated by the Centre, 85 per cent of the cost of transportation of the migrants is borne by the railways and the rest by the state governments, respectively.
Banerjee on Saturday announced that the West Bengal government would bear the entire cost of movement of migrant labourers from the state who are stranded in various parts of the country and are returning home by special trains.
"Saluting the toil faced by our migrant breathen, I am pleased to announce the decision of GoWB to bear the entire cost of movement for our migrant workers by special trains from other states to West Bengal. No migrant will be charged," Banerjee tweeted.
Communication in this regard was sent to Railway Board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav by state Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, she said.
Later in the day, state home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said detailed analytics had been done in this regard and those boarding the trains will not have to buy tickets.
He said that the government had created a database of 17 lakh people who are stranded in various states due to the lockdown.
"We have told all the concerned states to help them (migrant labourers). Many people have also sought help through various portals and social media for which nodal officers have been appointed," he said.
So far, 24,349 entry passes to West Bengal have been approved based on which at least 1,14,992 people have entered the state.
At least 2,15,915 have left the state for their homes, Bandyopadhyay said.
The chief minister had on Thursday said that her government has made arrangements for 105 more trains to bring back people stuck in different parts of the country amid claims by opposition parties that the state was not eager to ferry home stranded labourers and pilgrims.
Of these 105 trains, three will commence their journey from New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore Urban on Saturday.
The state government's exercise to ferry home people stranded during the lockdown in trains will continue till June 14.
Earlier, the government had given its nod for 10 trains to facilitate the return of people stranded in other states during the lockdown and three of them have reached the state so far.
The West Bengal government on Saturday announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of three people from the state who were killed in a road accident in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh while returning home.
"There are confirmed reports that three people from Purulia district died in the road accident in Uttar Pradesh. A compensation of Rs 2 lakh each will be sent to their immediate kin," the senior state government official told PTI.
Banerjee has also expressed grief over the incident.
At least 24 migrant workers were killed and 36 injured when a trailer rammed into a stationary truck, both carrying passengers, on a highway near Auraiya in the early hours of Saturday.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh termed the state government's decision for compensation and free travel as "a cover-up measure to hide its failures to act on time".
"Had the state government acted on time like the other states, the three labourers from West Bengal who died would have been alive. But it did nothing for the last 15 days and was sitting idle. After so many people died it announced free travel and compensation," Ghosh said.
The TMC countered the BJP leader's claim by blaming the Centre's 'messed up lockdown' for the death of the migrant workers.
TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee tweeted, "The painful loss of lives of #MigrantWorkers forced to take desperate measures to return to their native places is a result of a botched up lockdown led by an arrogant and insensitive government that fails even to take cognisance of the existence & suffering of millions."
Rendered jobless due to the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25 and desperate to get home, migrant workers across the country are undertaking long and arduous journeys to their native places on foot, bicycles or packed into trucks.
Over the past few days, many migrant workers have been killed in accidents in different parts of the country.