31/03/2020 12:14 PM IST

Third Coronavirus Death In West Bengal, Family Of One Victim Alleges Negligence

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said there was no question of relaxing the lockdown, but the govt has allowed sweetshops to remain open for a few hours each day.

NurPhoto via Getty Images
A ESI Hospital worker cycles on a deserted Howrah Bridge during the government-imposed nationwide lockdown in Kolkata on March 30,2020. 

West Bengal recorded its third coronavirus death late on Monday at a district hospital in Howrah. This was the second death of the day, after a woman from Kalimpong died in the morning. 

So far, 25 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The first death in West Bengal was that of a 57-year-old man last Monday.

As the state prepares to deal with more cases, Mamata Banerjee has said there is no question of relaxing the lockdown. 

The family of the woman from Kalimpong alleged on Monday that the authorities had failed to isolate those who came in contact with her, but other reports suggest that they were later put in quarantine. 

While the lockdown won’t be relaxed, in a surprising move, the government has has allowed sweetshops to remain open for four hours a day, citing “wastage of milk”. 

Third death in Bengal 

Reports say a 48-year-old woman admitted to the Howrah District Hospital died last evening. 

Indian Today reported that the woman, who had no international travel history, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday with fever, cough and breathing trouble. 

The India Today report said she tested positive and reported that her swab was sent to the SSKM hospital in Kolkata for a test. She died before the results came in. 

Woman’s family alleges gross negligence

The family of the second victim has alleged that while several of them were in contact with her and had sore throats, no tests were done on them. The woman’s niece said in a Facebook live video that doctors have delayed their tests, and that many members of the family had not even been isolated. 

Shrishti Sitaria Singh said in the video that only some members of the family were brought from Kalimpong to a hospital in Jalpaiguri and that they were kept in bad conditions, mostly without food. When the food was provided, it wasn’t edible. 

A photo Singh put up on her Facebook page showed the food her relatives were allegedly provided—packets of milk (which usually needs to be boiled), a packet of bread and overripe bananas. She said they even had to drink tap water.

In the video recorded on Monday Singh said, “Me and my husband were on the phone through the night trying to tell people who had come in contact with us. We are concerned and we thought all of us should get tested but nothing like that happened.”

Recounting the events leading to her aunt’s death, Singh said, “My aunt returned from Chennai on the 19th (March) after her daughters operation. They came to Siliguri to my house. It was my aunt and her daughter... they were here for two hours, they freshened up and then we went to Kalimpong.”

She said that in Kalimpong, they met her parents and parents-in-law, brother and sister-in-law and their daughter. Singh, her husband and her daughter were also present, along with the victim’s two children were also present, Singh said in the video. 

“We live there, together, and we lived together for 10 days. After her symptoms appeared, which you must have already heard of, we went to doctor GM Dey, and she was given medicine. When she did not recover by the 25th, we went back to the doctor and we were told to go to higher authorities,” Singh said. 

The woman was then brought to Siliguri where her tests for TB came in negative, and she had “viral pneumonia”. Singh said, “The rest of the family, we just have sore throats, we don’t even know if she has coronavirus.”

Singh said, “These hospital people, they don’t know what to do. There is just one case in all of north Bengal, and they don’t know how to handle it.”

HuffPost India has reached out to Singh and another relative of the woman, Vijay, and will update this article if they respond. 

Residents of Kalimpong, a small town in north Bengal, have also raised questions about why the woman’s condition deteriorated so abruptly. The Telegraph quoted an unnamed resident as saying, “We fail to understand how her condition deteriorated so fast. She was ill but was under observation. We have serious doubts about the quality of treatment.”

The report said that 48 people who had come in contact with the woman had been quarantined, 21 in Kalimpong and the rest in Jalpaiguri. 

It is likely that the family was put in quarantine after the Facebook live was recorded. 

No relaxation in lockdown

Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that it the state would have to follow the centre’s lockdown rules but may relax things around Bengali new year on April 14. 

The Telegraph quoted her as saying, “The Centre has announced the 21-day lockdown under a central Act, which we have to follow. Besides, the next two weeks are sensitive in terms of battling the novel coronavirus outbreak. We will review the situation on April 13 and would try to give some relaxation for April 14, the Bengali New Year.” 

Banks and sweet shops to function

PTI quoted a government order on Monday as saying, “Sweetmeat shops/mithai shops may remain open during the (lockdown) period from 12 noon to 4 pm each day with the minimum number of staff only for takeaway and packed items.” 

According to the report shop owners were not happy with the timings because not many customers turn up during that time. 

“We would request the administration to change the proposed timings to open the sweet shops for four hours during the first half, when people visit the markets and grocery shops,” Poschimbango Mistanno Byabsayee Somity office-bearer Dhiman Das told PTI

Meanwhile, the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) revoked their earlier relaxation of banking hours and said banks will function from 10 am to 4 pm. 

“There will be no relaxation in banking hours. The previous advisory regarding limited functioning from 10 am to 2 pm hereby stands withdrawn,” UBI’s General Manager and West Bengal SLBC Convener Mukti Ranjan Ray was quoted by PTI as saying.

(With PTI inputs)