The two Inter-Ministerial Central Teams (IMCTs) tasked with assessing West Bengal’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in seven districts could not do any meaningful work for the third successive day, with the state government ignoring the Kolkata team’s request for a detailed presentation on nine points and inspection visits to 12 hotspots, nine COVID hospitals, six markets, and four quarantine centres across Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore and North 24 Parganas districts.
Among the points the Central team has sought details on are the testing scale, testing facilities, availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, availability of ICU beds, ventilators and oxygen supply, incidence of COVID-19 among health workers, and the process of determining the cause of death.
The team in North Bengal, tasked with monitoring preparedness in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Jalpaiguri, also could not move out on Wednesday.
The team had its first briefing in three days from the Jalpaiguri Commissioner on the overall status of the outbreak in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Kalimpong. Another detailed briefing, requested by team leader Vineet Joshi, was initially scheduled at 7 pm, but was postponed to 10.30 pm on account of rain and hailstorm in the evening.
The IMCT, led by Additional Secretary Apurva Chandra, is learnt to have spent Wednesday waiting for West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha to respond to a letter requesting field visits and detailed presentation by the state Health Department.
“We haven’t heard from them the whole day. This is our third day here, and we haven’t done anything meaningful yet,” a team member said on the condition of anonymity.
In a detailed letter to Sinha on Wednesday morning, Chandra, besides seeking presentation on nine points, also requested information on the method of identifying suspected cases and quarantining those patients. “The IMCT would also like to understand any problems faced by he state government in implementation of the lockdown orders, availability of testing kits, etc, and support required from the Government of India in this regard,” the letter states.
On field visits, Chandra wrote, his team should be accompanied by “relevant officers of the health department, local bodies and other departments involved in implementing the health and disinfection measures, apart from supply of essential commodities, operation of quarantine centres and the management of the relevant hospitals”, and not a police officer.
On Tuesday, the IMCT was accompanied by an ACP of West Bengal Police for its hour-long tour of Kolkata to assess the implementation of the lockdown.
Chandra wrote to Sinha after the state government sought to de-escalate confrontation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
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