The Director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Dr. Shanta Dutta, has reportedly told India Today that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of Coronavirus samples being sent for testing by the Mamata Banerjee-led-West Bengal Government.
Fewer Samples for Testing
She alleged, “There is a big drop. Last week, we did not even have 20 samples per day. The number of samples being sent is determined by the state government, so if they send more samples, we will be able to test more.” This is in stark contrast to the 90-100 samples that were initially sent for testing per day.
The NICED Director, however, hinted at the increase in the number of testing centres for the decline in the number of the Chinese virus samples being sent to the testing facility. When asked about the willingness of the government in sending samples to operational State-run labs, Dr. Dutta reiterated that NICED is equipped with bigger infrastructure, additional medical staff, and better equipment. She added that other labs were trained for testing Coronavirus samples by them.
Lack of Testing Kits
On March 23, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had complained about an acute shortage of testing kits in the State. “We have just 40 testing kits in the State. I have asked for more. The Centre is yet to accede to my request”, she alleged during the all-party meeting.
Refuting claims made by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Supremo, Dr. Shanta Dutta informed that around 42,5000 kits were sent by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 3 consignments and more than 27,000 such kits were still in stock. About 7,500 such testing kits have been handed out to the West Bengal government. The NICED Director added, “There is no shortage. We are the depot or warehouse for the kits in eastern India.”
Need to Scale-up Testing
Reportedly, only 2,523 tests have been conducted to date in the highly-dense State of West Bengal. Dr. Shanta Dutta emphasised on the need for more tests to be conducted in accordance with the ICMR’s recommendations. As per the latest guidelines, both symptomatic and asymptomatic patient has to be tested, if they had come in contact with a person infected by the Wuhan Coronavirus. All health workers who are regularly exposed to Coronavirus patients need to be tested, even if they do not exhibit symptoms.
Allegations of Mamata Banerjee government under-reporting Coronavirus cases
For some time, it has been suspected that the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government was fudging its data on the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. We had reported on the 6th of April that at least eleven people who had tested positive for the virus had died in the state and yet, the official records of the state claimed that the figure was only three. Now, a report on The Statesmen claims that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation recorded ten deaths due to the virus while the West Bengal Health Ministry led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued to claim that only five people had succumbed to the disease.
The report by Subhendu Maiti on The Statesman says that the list of deaths due to the Wuhan Coronavirus compiled by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation says that ten patients died of the disease across government and private hospitals such as the NRS Hospital, R.G.Kar Medical College, M.R.Bangur Super Speciality Hospital, AMRI Hospitals at Salt Lake, Peerless Hospital and Zenith Super Specialty Hospital. The deceased were buried or cremated as per their religious beliefs between the 23rd of March and 6th of April, the report mentioned.
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. Subsequently, the expert committee was formed to determine the official cause of death. All of this is a matter of significant concern as there appears to be a dedicated attempt underway to fudge data regarding the pandemic in the state. Given the seriousness of the question, it remains to be seen whether Mamata Banerjee and her government decide to course correct now that the cat is out of the bag.