The inter-ministerial central team (IMCT), which visited West Bengal to assess the Covid-19 situation, in their final assessment have concluded that the mortality rate for coronavirus infection in the state is the highest in the country at 12.8 per cent. This indicates low testing, weak surveillance, and tracking, it observed.
On April 30, the West Bengal government had declared that all Covid-19 patients would be included in the daily statistics. Death certificates would be issued by the hospital with a committee of doctors examining a random sample, so long as a special audit committee, formed by the state government, is the sole authority to judge if the deaths are on account of coronavirus or a co-morbidity.
In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, IMCT team leader Apurva Chandra wrote, “This is a big step towards transparency. At the same time, it raises the total death count of Covid-19 patients in the state to 105 as on April 30. For a total reported number of 816 Covid-19 patients, the mortality rate of 12.8 per cent is by far the highest in the country”.
The revelation comes at a time when the national average for mortality is 3.2 per cent. Earlier, the state’s Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had also alleged the state government of mis-reporting Covid-19 data. There have also been discrepancies in the data shared by the West Bengal government and the Centre. This was brought to the notice by the governor as well as the IMCT.
In the letter, Chandra wrote, “The state needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting figures and not downplay the spread of the virus”.
In a state government health bulletin on April 20, where the number of active cases and deaths was mentioned, the West Bengal government claim
ed that 33 people had died from the virus, and the total number of active cases stood at 572.
However, the state government changed the bulletin format from May 1 - only new Covid-19 cases and deaths in the last 24 hours would be reported; the total number of active cases and deaths would not find mention.
Sinha clarified that the confusion in discrepancies over the data was on account of a complex system of data gathering which has been in place so long. “Our reporting structure was highly complicated. We thought it was foolproof, but it needs to be dynamic.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien hit out at the IMCT, claiming that the central team should have written first to the Union heath ministry to convince them of its findings. “Now, the Centre is sending only one team to West Bengal to advise the state on the Covid-19 situation, while two and more teams are being sent to other states. This shows West Bengal’s situation is much better than others. In fact, West Bengal and Kerala can become models for others to fight Covid-19,” he said.