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Bengal heading for health disaster by Dec?

GAB urges more confirmatory tests, ban on firecrackers to curb spike in cases.

SUBHENDU MAIT | Kolkata |

Bengal is heading to towards an ‘unprecedented health disaster’ from Covid pandemic by December, this, owing to ‘alarmingly low coronavirus confirmatory tests’ at a time when the deadly disease has affected around 4,000 people daily on an average in the state.

Some members of the Global Advisory Committee (GAB) headed by Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee are upset with the surge in number of Covid cases and deaths. GAB was formed by the state government for suggestions to fight the pandemic ravaging Bengal since end of March.

Ostensibly rattled by the steep spike in affected cases, senior experts of GAB have decided to urge the Mamata Banerjee government to ban use of crackers and fireworks during Kalipuja and Diwali festivals in the state this year. Air pollution from burning fire crackers will trigger the Covid-19 pandemic situation afflicting more people every day mainly in the city and other urban areas across districts. Rajasthan government has banned sale and use of fireworks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has announced the decision in a Twitter message today. The GAB members hold a virtual conference on Thursday to discuss the issue and would submit a status report on Covid situation in Bengal recommending immediate ban on fireworks during Kalipuja and Diwali to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, it was learnt.

“There will be an unprecedented health disaster caused by COVID pandemic by November-December in our state. We are seriously concerned with very low number of Covid confirmatory tests when infection rate has touched almost 9 per cent in our state. This is a very alarming trend though the recovery figure is satisfying,” Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, senior general medicine expert and a leading member of the GAB, told The Statesman today.

“We need at least one lakh confirmatory tests everyday to fight the pandemic. More tests help detect more COVIDaffected patients to prevent the spread of the disease. We will hold a virtual conference with our members on Thursday to discuss these issues,” Dr Mukherjee who had alerted the state government about three weeks ago saying ‘tsunami of infections’ would hit Bengal after Durga puja said.

Bengal records hardly 43,000 COVID tests on an average daily. Another member of the GAB requesting anonymity said that many states have focussed on how to increase the number of tests as many as possible.

“Five factors like seasonal flu ahead of winter, fireworks during Kalipuja and Diwali, rerun of local trains, low tests and political programmes will trigger the pandemic. Second wave of the pandemic has already hit France, Germany, UK and several other countries. UK government has again imposed lockdown exercise for one more month,” he said.

“We have sufficient infrastructure facilities mainly laboratories to conduct at least 60,000 swab sample tests a day but it’s not being done,” said a senior critical care specialist who attends 20 to 30 COVID patients each day.