The West Bengal government on Tuesday requested the Ministry of Civil Aviation not to schedule any flight to the state from eight cities for two weeks starting July 6 even as the state reported another record increase in cases, with its tally jumping by 652 to 18,559. This was the fourth time in five days the state reported the highest single-day spike in infections.
In a letter to the ministry, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Chennai, Indore, Ahmedabad, and Surat were reporting a high number of Covid-19 cases, and a large number of infections in West Bengal was found among those returning from other states.
Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Ahmedabad are among the worst-affected cities in India. On Tuesday, Delhi’s case count stood at 85,161 and its toll was 2,680, while Chennai’s caseload was 55,969 and its toll 846. Mumbai is the worst-hit of all the metropolises, reporting 77,658 cases till date, and 4,556 fatalities. In Gujarat, which has a high case fatality rate, the city of Ahmedabad is the worst-hit, with a total caseload of 20,716 and 3,453 deaths, followed by Surat.
“As you know, coronavirus is spreading fast all over the country. Some states are experiencing a larger spread of epidemic, though we strongly believe that all the states are equally vigilant and active towards curbing the spread,” Sinha wrote in the letter.
The official added, “West Bengal is also witnessing a steep rise in cases. A large number of cases have been reported from people who have come into the state from outside with infection. The West Bengal government has decided to stop or curtail the movement of incoming flights and trains into the state.”
In West Bengal, capital city Kolkata and the adjoining districts of Howrah and North 24 Parganas together are the epicentre of the pandemic. Of the 15 latest deaths that occurred in the state, 11 were reported from these districts. Most of the latest infections, 404, were also detected in this area.
At the start of the month, the total caseload in the state was 5,772, and though a massive upwards swing in the discharge rate in the middle of the month indicated that the infection spread was slowing down, a surge in the last few days offset the gains made, and dashed hopes of the month ending on a positive note.
While there have been no signs of the infection and fatalities slowing down in the epicentre, North Bengal has also played a role in pushing up the case count in the state. The eight districts in the region registered a bigger percentage increase in cases in June than Kolkata, Howrah and North 24 Parganas. Of the eight, Malda and Darjeeling were the worst-affected districts.
Following this precarious situation in the state, Sinha told the Ministry of Civil Aviation in his letter that the state government “has requested the Centre to restrict the number of flights to Kolkata, Bagdogra and Andal from other cities to a frequency of once a week from each airline, starting July 6 to July 31, 2020”.
In another letter, addressed to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, the Chief Secretary urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow metro trains in Kolkata to operate for people providing essential services.
“Kindly give MHA’s consent for relaxing norms for Kolkata to run a bare minimum number of Metro trains to carry people associated with essential services as a very special case,” Sinha wrote.
Meanwhile, the health bulletin reported that 411 people were discharged from hospitals, taking the total number of recovered patients to 12,130. The discharge rate, which was 39.95% at the start of the month, was 65.35%.
According to the bulletin, in which figures are updated till 9 am, 9,619 samples were tested, taking the total number of specimens examined to 4,78,419. In June, West Bengal ramped up its testing capacity, with tests per million population increasing from 2,369 on June 1 to 5,423 on Tuesday. The test positivity rate, which has climbed consistently throughout the month, rose to 3.8%.
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