A group of Bengali physicians, health scientists, and healthcare providers have written an open letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raising concerns about the “gross under-testing” and “misreporting of data” over the death of COVID-19 patients.
The health professionals identified themselves with roots in the state and expressed their concerns about inadequate testing across India. They described the situation in West Bengal as “most disturbing”.
“In the last week and a half, we have come across or watched with growing concerns, reports on the COVID-19 situation in West Bengal. There are two specific issues that are most disturbing to us: 1) the gross under-testing in West Bengal, and 2) the misreporting of data on the cause of death in COVID-19 patients,” the letter said.
Citing a report they said Bengal has the capacity to conduct around 1000 tests a day but the state has conducted just 33.7 tests per million as against the national average of around 156.9 per million.
“The number of truly affected cases depends on the extent of testing, the accuracy of the test results and, in particular, the frequency and scale of testing of asymptomatic cases who may have been exposed,” the letter said.
“The gross underestimation in the number of truly affected cases may have potentially dangerous consequences, specifically in 1) not being prepared with adequate healthcare capacity to handle the pandemic burden in the state, and 2) failing to arrest the spread of the infection by asymptomatic cases who may be spreading unknowingly,” it added.
In the letter they urged Ms. Banerjee to increase testing in the state and also take the responsibility for accurate and consistent reporting of COVID-19 data. The CM has blamed the Indian Council for Medical Research or ICMR for the low testing numbers in her state. She further claimed her state was not provided testing kits and the supply of faulty kits.