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Published On: Tue, May 5th, 2020

WB Admits to Faults in Coron Data, Refuses to Include 72 Deaths

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mamta covidNEW DELHI/ KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Monday disclosed that its system of collecting data on coronavirus patients was not perfect and that some cases may have been missed out.

However, the state’s Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha quickly dismissed the faults saying it cannot add these new figures to the existing death toll. At least 72 co-morbid patients were found to be linked to COVID-19 deaths by the audit committee in Bengal. In the last 24 hours, 11 people had died, taking the confirmed death toll in state to 61.
However, this is exclusive of the 72 co-morbidity deaths with which the tally would shoot up to 133.  In a press briefing, Sinha said, “We are quoting the right figure before you. (The 72) co-morbidity deaths will no more come to us because hospitals have been told not to report comorbidity deaths… So they are reporting the death figures and we are quoting the death figures. Where is the issue?”

 Admitting that the state had not given its figures for the past three days, Sinha also blamed the lapses of private hospitals that caused delay in submitting its data with the government. He said that the reporting structure of coronavirus cases was “very complicated”, leading to unintentional misses while tallying the numbers.
While the audit committee constituted by West Bengal had earlier said that it would be dealing with only peculiar cases of coronavirus, not all deaths, and submit its report to the government.”We have now tried to ensure no figures were lost in the cracks,” he said.

Meanwhile, the central team that visited Kolkata, Howrah and few other districts in the state to assess the situation said that West Bengal had the highest mortality rate in the country, at 12.8 per cent. Yet, it was also conducting one of the lowest amount of testing with weak surveillance and huge discrepancies in COVID-19 reports.

Meanwhile, the centre has put an end to a controversy over West Bengal’s coronavirus numbers. Even last evening, Bengal claimed 61 patients had died of the virus in the state and 72 other deaths linked to COVID-19 were of patients who had co-morbidities or existing health problems.
But the Union Health Ministry refused to accept the distinction. It added the two figures — 61 and 72 — and listed 133 COVID-19 deaths in Bengal on its website this morning. The update is on the basis of a revamped data sheet uploaded by the Bengal health department last evening. For the first time, it also had a list of deaths due to co- morbidities.
This morning, Bengal home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, following the usual format, said seven virus patients had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the number of deaths to 68. Had he used central data, that updated figure would have been 140.

On the centre listing 133 deaths in Bengal, Mr Bandopadhyay said, “I don’t have the centre and state data with me so I can’t say anything. But we are trying our best to ensure truthful convergence. The chief secretary explained yesterday that all figures have been extremely scientifically converged in Bengal.”
The confusion deepened yesterday when two sets of Bengal government data came into circulation. The set shared by the state’s ruling Trinamool in New Delhi had 133 deaths with no mention of the co-morbidity deaths. But the state’s health department site said there were 61 deaths and, in tiny letters marked with an asterisk, referred to 72 co-morbidity deaths.
According to sources, poll strategist Prashant Kishor has a role in the state government’s attempts to unravel the data mess, at the core of which is the controversial “death audit committee” set up to examine and declare the cause of death. Critics allege the committee’s brief was to fudge death data.
To start with, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee completely distanced herself from the committee, saying she had no idea about it or its members.
Mr Kishor’s intervention is key as Mamata Banerjee faces assembly elections now exactly one year away, the pandemic permitting. The Chief Minister, hemmed in by the centre’s allegations of mishandling the virus crisis, specially sought him out for damage control.
(Bureau REport with Agency Inputs ).

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