There seems to be a strange dichotomy in the number of cases and deaths due to the Wuhan Coronavirus being reported from West Bengal. An expert committee has also been set up by the state government to ‘audit’ the deaths in the pandemic. In a significant incident on the 2nd of April, after an expert committee announced that seven people had died due to the Chinese Coronavirus in Bengal, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha quickly issued an “explanation” to claim that the number of deaths was in, fact, three.
Sinha had said, “The expert committee said that the total number of COVID-19 cases is 53. Let me explain to you that three out of the 53 persons have tested negative have returned home. This makes the number of such persons 50 out them nine have tested negative in the second test which takes the number down to 41.” “Now out of the 41, some have co-morbidities such heart and kidney problems. Some of them have died…The total number of active novel corona positive case is 34 and the number of novel Coronavirus related deaths in the state is three,” he added. As for the death, Sinha claimed, “They had co-morbidities and that’s why they were hospitalised. That’s why we are saying that the four cases are not COVID-19 deaths. It would not be correct to hurriedly describe it as COVID-19 related deaths as it may create panic.”
An expert committee has been formed that will determine the cause of death for those who died after testing positive for the Wuhan Coronavirus. An order by the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Government of West Bengal states on the 3rd of April, “The Committee will examine the BHT, treatment history, laboratory investigation reports, death certificates or any other documents as may be deemed necessary for determining the cause of death of a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19.” Intriguingly enough, the expert committee was formed by the same order a day after the Chief Secretary brought down the death count in the state from seven to three.
Furthermore, between Saturday night and Sunday morning, four more people succumbed to ‘co-morbid conditions’ at hospitals across Bengal. Thus, at least eleven people who had tested positive for the Wuhan Coronavirus have died thus far in West Bengal but the official death count of the disease in the state only says three. It has not yet been confirmed officially whether the four individuals died ‘due to coronavirus’.
In addition to all of this, there are other aspects that are a cause for great concern in West Bengal. On the 5th of April, IANS reported that locals clashed with the Police at the AJC Bose Botanic Garden, Shibpur after locals saw a corpse being taken to the Abdul Road Burial Ground by some individuals wearing Personal Protection Equipments (PPEs). Panicking, the locals wanted to know why was the body being buried by individuals wearing the PPE.
The matter soon escalated and the Police were forced to send in more personnel to tackle the situation. According to the Police, the death certificate mentioned cardiac arrested as the cause of death but the deceased had developed a fever and respiratory distress prompting authorities to take all precautions.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that as of 12 pm on the 6th of April, there were only 61 active Coronavirus cases in West Bengal, of which 55 were from 7 families. However, as per the Ministry of Family and Health Welfare, there are currently 67 active cases excluding the 10 cured and 3 deaths.