06/05/2020 10:37 AM IST

Union Health Ministry Puts West Bengal Coronavirus Death Toll At 140, 4th Highest In The Country

Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has begun to put death toll numbers in its bulletin under two categories — deaths due to 'Covid-19' and 'co-morbidities'.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
A child receives food during a meal distribution in Kolkata's College Street on May 4, 2020.

After weeks of confusion over the death toll from Covid-19 in West Bengal, the Union health ministry has officially put it at 140. 

This means Bengal has the fourth highest death toll in India, after Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. This also means what the inter-ministerial team had suggested was correct — Bengal’s death rate is the highest in the country. 

According to the Union health ministry there were 1,344 confirmed cases in the state. The West Bengal government said that of the 1,344 there were 940 active  cases. 

Death toll controversy 

While the Centre has counted the death toll at 140, the Mamata Banerjee government continued to say, according to The Telegraph, that the death toll “directly from Covid-19” was at 68. 

The state government, however, for the first time listed in its bulletin “deaths due to co-morbidities” on Tuesday, still refusing to count it in the total death toll in the state. The bulletin put the number at 72. 

The state government had a bizarre response when asked about the high death rate in the state, as alleged by the inter ministerial team. 

The Telegraph quoted home secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay as saying,“What is being hinted at, on social and mainstream media sometimes, that after testing positive, why are the number of deaths in Bengal on the higher side... If this is the point… more positive cases you test, lesser will be the mortality rate.” 

BJP amps up pressure 

BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is also the party’s state in-charge, wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday saying the data being provided in government’s everyday bulletins had “glaring discrepancies”.

PTI quoted Vijayvargiya letter as saying, “There are several unanswered questions on how the State Government is handling the COVID pandemic. But I hope, in the interim, you will take note of the above observations and ensure these discrepancies are addressed at the earliest.”

“The government of West Bengal can’t give an impression of being callous when dealing with a sensitive issue involving lives of crores of people,” the BJP leader said.

Vijayvargiya claimed that there was no mention of the number of people who were “deprived” of Covid-19 tests and were “clandestinely buried/cremated as per COVID-19 protocols”. 

He said the BJP leader said figures of the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the was still missing. “Instead, two separate columns mentioning patients who died due to COVID and patients who died due to co-morbidities were given. ICMR/WHO-ICD guidelines require COVID to be mentioned as a reason for all patients, who were COVID positive and died,” PTI reported the letter as saying. 

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BSF troopers escorting central team test positive

Five BSF troopers, attached to the South Bengal frontier, tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, a day after a BSF driver who escorted a central team tested positive.

PTI reported that out of the five, three were engaged in escort duties of the inter-ministerial central team.

“Five more personnel were found to be positive. Their reports came late in the evening. They have been admitted to M R Bangur hospital,” a senior BSF official of South Bengal Frontier was quoted by the news agency as saying. .

BSF has said they have begun contact-tracing and some people had been put under quarantine.

(With PTI inputs)