TFIPOST has time and again written about how the state of West Bengal has been hushing up crucial details of the Coronavirus Pandemic- both in terms of the confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.
In what corroborates such fears, the official statistics released by the Mamata Banerjee government on Thursday again give a measure of how severe the outbreak in West Bengal could be.
West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha on Thursday admitted that 105 COVID-19 patients have died in the state, but the Mamata Banerjee government maintains that the official Coronavirus death toll is 33 and that the remaining 72 patients died of “co-morbidities”.
On Friday and Saturday, 15 more deaths were revealed by the West Bengal government’s health bulletins. As expected, the Mamata Banerjee government-appointed committee of experts is downplaying COVID-19 deaths in the state- attributing most of them as “co-morbidities” and only recognising a few of them as COVID-19 deaths.
But this actually helps us in connecting the dots. There are 608 active and 139 recovered cases in the state as of now. The Mamata Banerjee government includes only 48 deaths in the confirmed cases, but what about the 72 other cases that its so-called committee of experts attributes to “co-morbidities”.
Around the world, any COVID-19 patient who dies after getting infected is counted as a COVID-19 death simply for the reason that the novel virus is known to aggravate existing health conditions and cause accelerated death.
Therefore, the 72 deaths being attributed to co-morbidities are technically COVID-19 deaths. For the record, in the rest of the states in India and other countries across the world, every single patient who dies due to COVID-19 infection is considered a COVID-19 death. It is only in West Bengal that a Committee of Experts has been constituted. And this is where the scary position of the ongoing public health emergency in West Bengal comes to light.
If we add up the statistics (608 active cases, 139 recovered cases, 48 official deaths and 72 “co-morbidities”-induced deaths), we arrive at a figure of 867 confirmed Coronavirus cases as against the official statistic of 795 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Case to Fatality ratio (CFR) is unusually high in West Bengal (if we count “co-morbidities” as COVID-19 deaths). It comes out to be around 13.84 per cent and remember this is not even the mortality rate but only the Case to Fatality Ratio (CFR), as the outcome of the 608 active cases is still unknown. The mortality ratio might come out to be higher than the CFR.
The all-India CFR, on the other hand, stands at 3.3 per cent (slight variation if we use the aforementioned methodology for West Bengal). In the worst-hit states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, the ratio stands at 4.2 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.
But why is the COVID-19 Case to Fatality Ratio (CFR) abysmally high in West Bengal? There can be two reasons-
1. Extremely poor healthcare facilities in West Bengal leading to more deaths than other states.
2. Lowest testing levels in West Bengal that lead to exclusion of asymptomatic/ mildly symptomatic cases.
Remember, West Bengal is one of the most densely populated states in the country, yet it has the lowest testing levels among all major states. It is possible that only serious cases are getting tested and hospitalised, while relatively milder cases go undetected.
What further sparks concerns of things going out of control in the state, Kolkata is reported to have as many as 264 containment zones. Compare this with Delhi, which has 97 containment zones with more than 4,000 cases. Why should Kolkata have these many containment zones, if there are only 795 ‘official’ COVID-19 cases across the state?
From the very beginning, the Mamata Banerjee government was not taking the Pandemic seriously. In a communication to the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police (DGP) of West Bengal last month, even the Union Home Ministry had pointed out that there was “no regulation in vegetable, fish and mutton markets where people have been thronging in complete violation of social distancing“.
The communiqué had also stated, “As per further reports received from security agencies, gradual dilution of lockdown has been reported from West Bengal, with an increase in the number of exceptions being provided by the state government.”
MHA had also noted that there were religious congregations and had stated, “police have been allowing religious congregations.”
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave express instructions not to be harsh on violators when she said, “korakori, kintu barabari noy (strict but without any excesses)”.
Neither did West Bengal administration enforce the lockdown seriously, nor did it conduct enough tests to gauge the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. And today the state seems to be battling a severe outbreak, even as the ticking Corona bomb has exploded in all certainty.