11/05/2020 10:33 AM IST

West Bengal Sees 14 Deaths, Highest Reported In 24 Hours, As Mamata Govt Plans To Counter BJP Narrative

According to the Union health ministry, the death toll in the state is at 185. The number of active cases in the state increased to 1,337.

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Health officials check the temperature of stranded labourers in Siliguri before they depart for their hometowns on May 9, 2020.

West Bengal saw the highest jump in the number of Covid-19 patients and the number of deaths in the last 24 hours with 153 fresh COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths. 

As the number of Covid-19 patients continued to increase, the states infectious diseases hospital is carrying out research to look for answers on why this is the case in Bengal. 

Meanwhile, as the Mamata Banerjee government continued to be at loggerheads with the Centre, the TMC has decided to begin a campaign to counter the allegations against it in handling the coronavirus pandemic. Reports say poll consultant Prashant Kishor is involved. 

185 dead 

The West Bengal on Sunday said that 14 people had died in the state, taking the death toll to 113. 

However, if it is counted along with the 72 who the government said “died of co-morbidities”, the death toll is at 185. The Union health ministry has also put the West Bengal death toll at 185. 

The Mamata government has continued to exclude deaths from co-morbidities in its death count. However, according to WHO and ICMR guidelines, such deaths should also be counted as coronavirus deaths. 

PTI reported that of the 14 deaths, Kolkata alone accounted for 10, and two deaths each was reported from North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts.

The highest number of fresh COVID-19 cases was reported in Hooghly district (47) while 18 people from Kolkata tested positive for novel coronavirus, the report said. 

A total of 1,939 COVID-19 cases have been reported in West Bengal so far, of which 1,337 are active.

However, a minister from the Mamata Banerjee government, who was not named, told The Telegraph that there was nothing to worry about. 

“These so-called records of 24-hour spikes in the number of cases could keep getting broken for some time. There is nothing extraordinarily worrisome in that at this stage of the pandemic for the state. Calcutta and adjoining areas need special attention, which they are getting,” the minister was quoted as saying. 

New mutations

The National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), along with the  National Institute of Biomedical Genomics is carrying out research to find the mutations of the novel coronavirus in West Bengal. 

NICED chief Shanta Dutta told Anandabazar Patrika, “There has been a mutation in the virus during the lockdown in Bengal. Many mutations during a small period of time is significant.” 

The report said that study is being done in two phases. The first phase will look into the mutations of the virus are active, the second phase is looking into the journey of the virus in Kolkata. 

Experts had said earlier this month that there new mutations of the virus in Bengal, but had said that it was too early to figure out what that could mean for the state. 

This was after a paper written by experts at the  led by the CSIR Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata, and the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research in Ghaziabad. 

Commenting on this research, Dr Shobha Broor, former head of the AIIMS department of virology had told Hindustan Times, “There appears to be a new mutation in West Bengal, which hasn’t been described previously. Some mutations are important while some are not. It’s too premature to say anything. The spike protein is a hotspot for mutation. We need some real-life studies of how these mutations change the virus. Some of these mutations may affect the way the virus enters the body.”

TMC’s plan to counter BJP’s claims 

The Narendra Modi government and the BJP have both criticised the West Bengal government since the outbreak of the coronavirus over its handling of the situation in the state. 

Now, reports say the TMC has roped in Prashant Kishor to change the narrative. 

The Telegraph reported that the CM’s nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, state party president Subrata Bakshi, secretary-general Partha Chatterjee and senior leader Subrata Mukherjee held a video conference for over three hours. This was in a bid to counter, what they say is “malicious propaganda”. 

The report quoted a south Bengal MLA who attended the meeting as saying, “They said despite Bengal’s good position and the exemplary work by the state government — led by our supreme leader from the front, we have been losing the perception battle since the second half of April. It is largely because of the fault of the saffron propaganda machinery’s overdrive that was launched around then.” 

According to the MLA, the BJP had realised that the perception of how the government handled the Covid-19 situation would make or break its chances of winning the elections in 2021. 

(With PTI inputs)