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Health minister rebuts Mamata claim: Bengal has conducted under 10% of 2,500 tests available

In a report to Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan says 40 Covid-19 testing kits doesn’t mean 40 tests.

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Kolkata: After West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fired a salvo at the central government, claiming that the state only has 40 Covid-19 testing kits available to it, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has put the blame on her government, indicating that 40 kits doesn’t mean 40 tests, and saying the state has conducted less than 10 per cent of the total tests available to it.

Banerjee had said three days ago that the Narendra Modi government was not doing enough to help the state, and that even bringing the paucity of testing kits to the PM’s attention during a video conference last week had not borne fruit.

Acting on the CM’s statement, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar asked the Union health minister to ensure adequate facilities and test kits for the state.

But in response, Harsh Vardhan has now sent a report to Raj Bhavan, which has been accessed by ThePrint, stating that Bengal has conducted only 199 tests out of the 2,500 that can still be done from the kits available to it.

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Details in health minister’s report

Harsh Vardhan’s report, received at Raj Bhavan Wednesday, stated that there are four testing centres in Bengal — National Institute of Cholera & Enteric Diseases (NICED) in Kolkata, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research in Kolkata (IPGMER), Midnapore Medical College and the North Bengal Medical College.

Tests have only been conducted at three of these four centres, the report states.

NICED, which has the wherewithal to conduct 1,000 tests, has done 157. IPGMER has conducted 40 tests and has 1,098 tests left, while the Midnapore Medical College has only carried out two tests out of 200. The North Bengal Medical College has a capacity to conduct 200 tests as well.

The health ministry report also states that the School of Tropical Medicine in Kolkata has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for functioning as a Covid-19 laboratory, but the requisite reagents for conducting the tests have not been shipped yet due to difficulty in transportation as a result of the nationwide lockdown.

Health department figures

The figures put out by the West Bengal health services department on 25 March are different. It stated that 244 samples had been tested, of which 242 reports had been received, and nine had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But the health department said it has adequate infrastructure to continue testing for Covid-19.

Ajoy Chakraborty, director of health services, said: “We have all arrangements ready. We can go on with testing now, as and when it is required. We have test kits also.”

According to a senior health department official, the low rate of testing is because of ICMR guidelines. “We cannot go for random testing as ICMR in its guidelines said that every testing reagent is accounted for, and we should test if a patient shows symptoms,” the official said.

A senior doctor at IPGMER, who did not wish to be identified, pointed out that the “confusion” on the number of test kits might have arisen due to the fact that many do not know how these kits function.

“One kit can test 70 to 100 samples, depending on the variety. So, 40 kits do not necessarily mean that only 40 samples would be tested. It is a wrong notion. People should not be misled by numbers,” the doctor said.

Asked about the mismatch between the central and state reports, Governor Dhankhar told ThePrint: “I got in touch with the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on 23 March and interacted with him on the phone. He is extremely professional and concerned. I shared the concerns of the state with him.”

“While this surely is no time for such things, I may say that inputs to me are that the Union government is in overdrive as regards all the states in even-handed manner, and any grievance to the contrary is not well founded. I also find that both the central government and state government are in synergy mode,” Dhankhar said.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown: What states are doing to help the poor and unorganised workers

Politics rears its head

This is not the only issue CM Mamata Banerjee has raised about the way the central government has handled the coronavirus crisis. She has blamed it for not providing the state with adequate infrastructure, financial assistance, delaying the lockdown, allowing flights and train operations, and also for not consulting the state before imposing the National Disaster Management Act.

Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh blamed her for playing politics in this time of a health emergency. “She is not leaving a stone unturned to indulge in state-Centre politics. Our MPs are continuously working on the ground, talking to people, and have also allocated money from the MPLADS funds for the Covid-19 infrastructure. The Centre is in constant touch with all the states,” he said.

A senior BJP leader added that Banerjee is now trying to “undo” what she did a few weeks ago. “In a public meeting, she said that PM Modi is bringing up the coronavirus crisis to cover up the Delhi riots. And now, the same chief minister is saying that the central government has delayed the lockdown. People understand these politically motivated stands and statements,” the leader said.

However, Governor Dhankar appealed to all sides to stay away from politicking in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I appeal to all concerned to disable their political antennae for this crisis period, and take respite from political mileage. We all need to be in one-mission mode, and avoid any blame game,” Dhankhar said.

Also read: West Bengal blood banks run dry due to lockdown


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  1. Mamta ji is no doubt she is one of the best CMs of our nation! The problem with this madam is that she does not co-operate with the central Government even if the Modi Government is trying to give a helping hand! She is worried because she may loose her popularity among WestBengal people if they come to know that central government is helping the people of WB all possible ways! People now quite aware that Mamta madam is unnecessarily accusing Modi Government with selfish motive in her mind!Better sense prevail on this selfish CM so that people of WB Avail all the benefits they are extended to them,!

  2. Inefficient and corrupt mamata should see the gravity of the situation due to corona virus and stop indulging in cheap politics at this juncture rather than blaming the central government. Mamata didi for heavens sake please shut your blessed or filthy mouth and work with dedication at this hour of crisis.

  3. All are same dont talk about parties… Kindly see the patient and try to solve as soon as possible.. By fighting or raising hand upon each other no one can get any medal.. Or specially respected CM mamta banerjee plz don’t panic any one or dont give any kind of wrong statement and as well as this is for all the parties don’t reply any worng rumors Or any else… Keep your opinion all are getting disturbed.. So please carefully hold this situation.

  4. All of us are itching to fish in troubled waters. Fighting corona is being relegated to the background with “we” and “they” fighting for a legspace in a political jamboree. While thousands of migrant labourers try to walk back hundreds of kilometers to their dear homes without food water and in utter distress of being evicted from their safe shelter and assured living environment, when old and disabled fight for their daily essentials for survival, Politics only raises it’s ugly head. When will we mature and behave ?

  5. Centeral government making only order but state government have it to implement on the ground ,so forcefully impose that may loss state government political advantage and other hand central government is highlighting this issue to gain political mileage
    Both are playing same

  6. Mamta didi has grown old.. she is no more fit for the CM post, the problem is whom to select next.. Abhishek Bannerjee so called bhaipo is too young and he is busy in his Gold collecting hobby.. so i request Modi ji.. just like the CMof UP.. please select any wise personality from any Ashram of Bengal.. whom we can trust

  7. When the WHO Director General said “Test Test Test”, the Government must have not understood the depth of the situation.
    When we see South Korea & Germany are testing so rapidly, why is the government folding hands and sitting quietly??
    Now that we have our own testing kits made in India by MyLabs, why are we not making an effort to start testing highly prone district wise cases to less prone districts???
    We have to eradicate the virus(SARS-CoV-2) sitting at homes, before it comes out again after the lockdown!!
    I hope our CM is aware of the student arriving from England & hopping around every public place in Kolkata whose mother is in Nabanna.

  8. Center and State political rivalry for West Bengal has been on for 35years of CPIM rule wich ended in CPM joining the Central Govt and now the rivalry is on for another 10years with more aggression than ever before since TMC came in for Poriborton. In the process the people have suffered irreplaceable losses on all aspects – economy,industry, finance etc. Now, kindly ensure that this rivalry doesn’t make us lose the most precious thing – human lives.

  9. Well what do you expect?? Bengal qualifies to be the laziest and the most inefficient state in Bharat. And the way Mamata is handling this is completely reinforces the above statement.

    • Center and State political rivalry for West Bengal has been on for 35years of CPIM rule wich ended in CPM joining the Central Govt and now the rivalry is on for another 10years with more aggression than ever before since TMC came in for Poriborton. In the process the people have suffered irreplaceable losses on all aspects – economy,industry, finance etc. Now, kindly ensure that this rivalry doesn’t make us lose the most precious thing – human lives.

    • What makes you so desperate about Bengal? To everybody’s experience there are far greater indecisive and inefficient state in and around. Don’t be critical about anyone just for the sake or heck of it?

    • Listen you uneducated and dim-witted prick. Stop hate mongering in this difficult time and trying to divide people on the basis of ethnicity. If Bengalis had been lazy, they would not have produced more Nobel prize winners than the rest of India combined.

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