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‘Alarming situation’ as Covid cases rise, tests take time

Notably, the district administration, even in the Hills, have stopped collecting swab samples from asymptomatic migrant workers at quarantine centres, most likely because of the delay in the tests the report generation.

MANAS R BANNERJEE | Siliguri |

The Covid-19 situation in north Bengal has turned alarming, as the administration has virtually failed to make arrangements with proper medical protocols for the hundreds of migrant workers returning since Lockdown-4.

Given the steady rise in the Covid-19 cases in India and the region, a section of the people, who are alarmed by a large number of asymptomatic migrant workers who have tested positive and are spreading the coronavirus from Malda to Cooch Behar, apprehend that the situation might go beyond control if the state health authorities still failed to take proper steps immediately.

An urgent administrative meeting was held here today in a bid to overcome the present crisis. Though showcasing the state’s alleged failures and its reluctance to take back migrant workers on time, the BJP leadership has countered the state government, even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has, in turn, has blamed the Centre for sending back migrant workers in an unplanned manner, while she has also termed the special Shramik Express trains as ‘Corona Express.’

The general people too still believe that the Centre is responsible for spreading coronavirus in the region by sending in a huge number of migrant workers. Significantly, several people have shared on social media Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s views titled ‘This is what a failed lockdown looks like’ in India compared with other developed countries.

Mr Gandhi tweeted on how the number of coronavirus cases is increasing during the ‘unlock phase 1’, despite the long lockdown phases. “Educated people, and those belonging to the socalled middle-class and lower middle class families, are unhappy with the ongoing political war of words, mainly between the Trinamul Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in many issues related to the Covid-19 management in Bengal, as a majority of the people are suffering due to poor economic activities due to the lockdown, unemployment and other basic facilities for normal life even during the Unlock PhaseI,” an observer said today.

When many people from Darjeeling, Terai, Dooars and the rest of North Bengal are looking forward to hearing from Home Minister Amit Shah, who is scheduled to address an online ‘Virtual Rally’ tomorrow, Darjeeling MP Raju Bista today said that he was worried about the fast spreading coronavirus, which he said was rising steadily from quarantine centres, owing to the delay in swab sample collection and delayed tests.

Mr Bista has proposed that the Darjeeling district magistrate work together with the centre, state and the local bodies to fight the Covid crisis. He today informed both the Prime Minister and the Union Health Minister about the urgent need of an action plan to fight Covid in the Hills, Terai and the Dooars region.

Notably, the district administration, even in the Hills, have stopped collecting swab samples from asymptomatic migrant workers at quarantine centres, most likely because of the delay in the tests the report generation.

“There are several quarantine centres in the Hills for migrant workers, but the local administration has failed to manage them as per health protocols,” a source said.

A case in point is Mirik subdivision, where there are 128 quarantine centres. Owing to the fact that Covid test reports were not being delivered even with the 14-day quarantine period, the local administration are releasing people from the quarantine facilities. “However, later, it is learnt that the some of the people who have been released have actually tested positive for the virus.

And by this time, he has already met and mingled with several people, including his family members and neighbours. This is not only in the hills, but it happening all across north Bengal,” a source said.

When asked, Mirik SDO Ashwini Roy said: “To stop the spread of coronavirus, we have launched awareness campaigns among the people and are asking them to maintain social distancing.”

Asked to comment on the same, officer on special duty for Covid-19 in north Bengal, Dr Susanta Roy, said that the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital today: “A wrong message is being sent. As per the ICMR’s guidelines, there is no need to test asymptomatic people.”

Though Dr Roy did not agree to assumptions that community transmission had begun, he disclosed that people are being infected at quarantine centres and that the number of Covid cases was on the rise.

Later, after another meeting with administrative and health officials, Mr Roy said the laboratory at the NBMCH has so far tested more than 45000 samples. According to him, the lab will test 850 samples every day, and that the quota for Cooch Behar is 200 samples, Alipurduar 150, Jalpaiguri 200, Darjeeling 180, Kalimpong 70, and North Dinajpur 50. “The lab targets to test 1250 after installation of another machine soon,” he said.

According to him, 110 patients are presently admitted in Dr Chhang’s (Covid) Hospital in Siliguri.