Delayed response, mismanagement: Health experts slam Mamata Banerjee govt over downplaying coronavirus crisis

Mamata Banerjee, representational image, Source: India Today

The Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has been receiving massive criticism for her response to coronavirus crisis, reports Hindustan Times.

A lot of criticism against the West Bengal government is coming from health professionals, who have accused her of not only fudging data but also for testing “abysmally low” numbers of swab samples. The health experts have also cautioned Mamata Banerjee for playing down the extent of the spread of the disease in the state.

Bengal government’s delay to contain the spread:

Reportedly, West Bengal reported its first coronavirus case on March 17. However, the administration started to act only last week when they sealed some localities after identifying them as ‘high-risk spots’.

The experts allege that West Bengal may have woken up late. According to senior cardiologist Kunal Sarkar, identification of such ‘micro-spots’ would be of no use, if the frequency of testing does not increase.

“Sample testing in India is quite low. And in West Bengal, it is exceptionally low. We need to understand that it is not a competition of low numbers. If we suppress numbers in a state, then our hot spots would amount to nothing but fallacies,” said Sarkar.

Extremely low testing:

Over the past week, the state has been testing about 200 samples per day on an average. Earlier this week, Dr Shanta Dutta the Director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) – ICMR, has said 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.

Shanta Dutta had said that the state government was not sending enough samples for testing. NICED – ICMR, Kolkata, is a laboratory under the Virus Research Diagnostic Laboratory network of the Union health ministry.

Reportedly, only 2,523 tests have been conducted to date in the highly populated State of West Bengal. Dr Shanta Dutta emphasised on the need for more tests to be conducted in accordance with the ICMR’s recommendations.

“Earlier we used to get enough samples, around 80 – 90 samples every day, but over the last few days, we have been receiving 10–30 samples. We have around 27,500 testing kits…,” Dutta said, adding that there is no shortage of testing kits.

A senior health official of the state government who requested to remain anonymous, however, refuted allegation, “NICED is not the only testing lab in West Bengal…we have six other laboratories. Samples are also being sent there.”

Is the 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. A report on The Statesmen had also claimed 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.

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.”

Mamata Banerjee had also stoked a new controversy by politicizing the issue of yellow PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) kits given by the Centre to the state government and had hinted that West Bengal might not use it.

Meanwhile, West Bengal has reported 10 positive cases on Tuesday taking the total tally of positive cases to 120. At least seven people have succumbed to the Chinese pandemic coronavirus in the state of West Bengal.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia