Unable to answer the queries of the central inter-ministerial team and left with no option, the West Bengal government has officially admitted 57 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus. The state government on Friday revealed that according to the death audit committee in Bengal, 57 COVID-19 patients had died but stressed on the fact that 39 of these deaths were due to co-morbidities.
Interestingly, the Bengal government had till Thursday (April 23) evening maintained that only 15 deaths have taken place in the state due to COVID-19.
“Only 18 of the deaths were because of COVID-19. Balance 39 deaths were due to co-morbidities and COVID-19 was incidental,” said Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha.
This comes after the central inter-ministerial team asked for details on the death audit committee, earlier in the day and raised questions over Bengal’s coronavirus figures.
The central team enquired about the committee set up to certify deaths due to COVID-19, which was recommended by the central government’s Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
In a letter to the chief secretary on Friday, the central team’s head Apurva Chandra asked for records of all COVID-19 cases in which the death was attributed to some other cause by the committee.
Chandra also questioned the time taken by the committee to take such decisions and wanted to interact with the committee to understand its methodology.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the opposition parties in Bengal had also raised doubts about the audit committee, along with several groups of doctors.
This revelation comes a day after the Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was involved in a heated exchange of letters with the Governor.
The controversy over the audit committee started after an April 2 press meet in which an expert committee announced that the total number of deaths on that day stood at seven, four in the previous 24 hours, only to change it to three within an hour by the chief secretary.
The chief secretary said the expert committee figure was “an error”. This led to the formation of the audit committee to confirm the cause of death. Since then neither the expert committee nor has the audit committee has addressed a press conference.