KOLKATA: Apurva Chandra, the leader of the Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) that stayed for two weeks in Bengal, sent a letter to the state government before flying to Delhi on Monday mentioning extremely high mortality rate in the state.
In the letter, the IMCT said that it is a clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking. Accusing the Bengal government of not extending cooperation, team leader Apurva Chandra said in his two-page letter that the state government has taken an antagonistic view to the IMCT and has not supported the central team in the performance of its duties. Chandra also said that the state government needs to be transparent and not downplay the spread of the virus.
Citing an announcement by chief secretary Rajiva Sinha on April 30, Chandra said, "It raised the total death count of COVID patients in the State to 105 on 30.04.2020. For a total reported number of total 816 COVID patients, the mortality rate of 12.8% is by far the highest in the country. This extremely high mortality rate is a clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking."
Elaborating on the extent of non-cooperation by Bengal government, Chandra said, "The IMCT repeatedly sought support the State Government for field visits and interactions with the public, health professionals and State functionaries…. The IMCT could only interact with the Principal Secretary (Health) through a video conference on 23.04.2020 and received some partial responses from the health department. There has been no response or interaction with any other department of the state government. In short, the State Government has taken an antagonistic view to the IMCT and has not supported the IMCT in the performance of its duties. This contrasts with the experience of IMCTs deputed to other states."
Two days after the IMCT arrived in Bengal, the chief secretary had said senior government officials would not be able to accompany the central team keeping aside their daily important work schedule.
The leader of the IMCT mentioned discrepancies in the number of COVID-19 cases reported by the state government in its medical bulletins and its communications with the Union government.
"The bulletin of 30.04.2020 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 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.
"In addition, it was admitted that 72 COVID patients have expired but classified as death due to comorbidities. The number does not seem to find a reflection in the figure of 744. The state needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not downplay the spread of the virus,’’ said Chandra.
The IMCT, during its two weeks of stay in Bengal, shot off seven letters to the chief secretary and four letters to the principal secretaries of Home, Health, Urban Development, and Municipal Affairs, Food and Supplies.