In Bengal, increase in testing but rise in cases the same
West Bengal’s average daily increase in the number of Covid-19 patients has remained almost the same over the past fortnight even though the testing rate has increased by over three folds, according to an analysis of available data. This has resulted in a sharp decline in the percentage of Covid-19 positive people among those tested for the disease.
Between May 5 and 7, the state tested 7,637 samples, averaging 2,545 daily. In those three days, 289 more people tested positive, with an average of 96.3 people daily. But between May 17 and 19, the state tested 24,994 samples, with 8,331 tests daily on an average. During these days, 385 people tested positive, with an average of 128 persons daily. With this, the state has recorded a significant improvement in the percentage of people tested positive for the disease among those tested for it. The percentage stood at 4.87% on May 5. It has since come down to 3.11% on May 17.
The state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) claimed that this was because of the state’s success in containing the spread of the disease even as the figures have intrigued a section of doctors.
“The data reflects the state’s success in containing the diseases by enforcing a successful lockdown. The people are also to be thanked for maintaining the lockdown,” said Santanu Sen, TMC Rajya Sabha lawmaker. Sen, a doctor, has been one of the important persons in chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Covid-19 management team.
West Bengal Doctors’ Forum secretary Koushik Chaki said the data could be misleading. “This mismatch in the rate of testing and the percentage of people testing positive could have happened due to more testing in the areas lesser affected by the disease. One example is that whereas a good number of tests have been conducted in north Bengal, too few persons tested positive there,” said Chaki. “Whether the infection rate in the state is indeed low can be said only after knowing how much tests have been conducted in the highly-affected districts of Kolkata, Howrah and North 24-Parganas and how many in the containment zones.”
Punyabrata Goon, another doctor, said the figures indicate more testing in relatively unaffected areas. “There are hints that the state may have been able to contain the spread but more test reports are needed to say so convincingly.”
A health department official, who did not want to be identified, said that the high rate of negative results is also because of pool testing in some pockets of the state, especially north Bengal. “Nearly 11,000 tests were conducted in the districts of Malda and Murshidabad but only 43 cases were reported from these districts.”
An Inter-Ministerial Central Team, which visited West Bengal to assess the Covid-19 situation, earlier this month alleged discrepancies in reporting of cases in the state.