105 Covid patients dead in W BengalUpdated: Apr 30, 2020 23:42 IST
KOLKATA: West Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha said on Thursday that 105 Covid-19 patients had died in the state, 33 of them succumbing to the viral disease, and the rest to co-morbid conditions. The state government also reported 37 new cases on Thursday, taking to 795 the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19.
This new figure of fatalities was released six days after the state administration said 57 persons who tested positive for Covid-19 had died, and attributed 18 of the deaths to the disease and 39 to “severe co-morbidity.” Bengal is the only state that has formed a committee of doctors to determine the cause of death among Covid-19 patients.
“Today I have received a report from the expert committee conducting audits into the deaths of Covid-19 positive patients. Altogether 105 cases have been examined by them, out of which they have said 33 died of Covid-19 infection. In 72 other cases, death was caused by co-morbid conditions and Covid-19 was only incidental,” Sinha said.
Meanwhile, the number of containment zones increased. In Kolkata from 227 on Monday to 264 on Thursday, and in neighbouring Howrah to 70 from 56.
A controversy has raged over Bengal’s way of listing Covid-19 fatalities, with opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Left accusing the state government of manipulating the number of deaths.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on Wednesday said that she and her government did not tamper with the numbers and that an expert committee of doctors was conducting the audit independently.
Over the past two days, a new controversy haS been brewing over an official order from the superintendent of Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital asking doctors not to mention Covid-19 in the death certificates of patients who had tested positive for the disease.
This government order from the medical superintendent-cum-vice principal of Murshidabad Medical College was dated April 25 and numbered Msd/MCH/MSVP/2006. While top health department officials remained tightlipped, the hospital superintendent, Debdas Saha, was transferred on Thursday.
“The administration is trying to make the superintendent a scapegoat. The administration from the top is differentiating between the deceased persons to show a lesser number of deaths. There is a death audit committee for this purpose. The only mistake the super may have done was to put the government’s viewpoints in the writing,” BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh alleged.
Congress’ Lok Sabha leader and Berhampore MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury echoed Ghosh.
Chief secretary Sinha, refusing to comment on the transfer, said the death audit committee had nothing to do with death certificates.
“This committee was not doing any kind of audit in death certificates; it was auditing the cause of death,” Sinha said.
Senior doctor Rezaul Karim, a leader of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum, said that he had raised the issue of death audit during the chief minister’s meeting with eight doctors’ associations on Tuesday.
“It is possible that a person testing positive for the presence of novel coronavirus in her/his body is not a Covid-19 patient. She/he may have no symptoms of the disease at all and might only be a carrier. But these fine differences could be part of academic debates within the boundaries of academic institutions. We told the chief minister that at the time of a pandemic, deaths of all patients testing positive for coronavirus infection should be attributed to Covid-19 in order to avoid confusion and controversy in the public sphere,” Karim said.
On Thursday, senior Left leaders staged a demonstration in Kolkata to protest against the “manipulation in the number of deaths,” and alleged a scam in the public distribution system and mismanagement in reaching relief to the poor. They maintained social distancing while staging the demonstration with placards in their hands and faces covered with masks.