Other States

Low testing, high positivity ratio in West Bengal is a challenge

People wait to be tested for the coronavirus outside a hospital in Siliguri. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

West Bengal on Sunday registered a record 19,436 new cases of COVID-19 infections, while the number of samples tested for COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours was 63,095. There has been a rise in the number of cases and deaths since the second wave of COVID-19 hit West Bengal, which has recently witnessed a high-pitched election. Over the past few days, the State has recorded more than 100 deaths due to the viral infection, and on Sunday the number of COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours was 124.

Even as a significant number of samples are testing positive, the State government’s official health bulletin gives the rate as 9.05%. Manas Gumta, general secretary of the Association of Health Service Doctors said that, going by the figures of daily samples tested, COVID-19 positive cases should be between 30-35%.

“Last year, during the peak of the crisis, when the highest number of daily positive cases was a little over 4,000, we were testing about 50,000 samples, and this year, when the number of cases has increased multiple times, we still are testing 60,00 samples. The more urgent requirement is to ramp up testing,” Dr. Gumta said. There are reports of home collection of COVID-19 samples being unavailable in Kolkata, and the results of tests taking three to four days to arrive.

In a communication to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on May 7 referred to a high positive rate — being as high as 40% — in certain districts of West Bengal.

A significant number of positive cases and deaths are being recorded from Kolkata and North 24 Parganas. On Sunday, Kolkata recorded 3,961 new cases and 34 deaths, whereas North 24 Parganas had 3,982 new infections and 39 deaths. The two districts put together account for 40% of the total recorded infections and more than 50% deaths.

In terms of bed availability, the State government’s official version is that 42.74% beds are occupied while the total number of COVID-19 beds in the State is 17,200. The number of active cases in the State as on May 9 is over 1.25 lakh. Dr. Gumta said that one has to look at where are the beds vacant, since most cases of infections are in Kolkata and adjoining districts, and there are no beds available here. Relatives of COVID-19 patients say both State-run and private hospitals are turning patients away.

Meanwhile, a number of doctors and rationalist organisations have written to the State’s Chief Secretary, demanding a meeting, stating that they have some suggestions to make.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 5:52:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/low-testing-high-positivity-ratio-in-west-bengal-is-a-challenge/article34522004.ece

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