Biplab Sarkar and Mintu Satiyar of two Gram Panchayat areas under the Balurghat Block in South Dinajpur district got the shock of their lives after the health department listed them among persons who had tested positive for Covid-19.

Moreover, the department also called them over the phone to tell them that they were infected, and their neighbours are harassing them now.

However, while Mr Sarkar said that he was not able to give their throat samples for Covid tests when he had gone to do so at a swab collection centre on 5 August, Mr Satiyar claimed that he never went to any such centre for tests.

The health department has, on the other hand, denied the allegations, but said it had started departmental inquiry. It also said that the two persons may have denied the reports because they wanted to hide the facts.

Mr Sarkar, a resident of Dasul village under the Nazirpur gram panchayat was present in the Khashpur health centre on 5 August. However, he claimed he returned before the health staff could collect his sample because he was delayed for work.

“On 8 August, reports came in from the Malda Medical College that showed these two patients positive for the virus, along with others. As per the records of the district health department, their swabs were collected on 5 August. The department accordingly informed all positive patients over the phone. Biplab Sarkar was at the Khashpur health centre and he had registered his name and given his phone number,” a source said.

However, Mr Sarkar said today that no health staff turned up at the centre even after a two-hour-long wait. “I had to join my duties before 3 pm. So I left the place before the sample was collected. On 8h August, the health department informed me that I was tested positive, and God knows how,” Mr Sarkar said.

“I got a chance to undergo a rapid antigen test and the result is negative,” he added.

Mr Satiyar of Dhani Hargram in the Boaldar gram panchayat, on the other hand said, he never went to any collection centre. “I never went to any health centre for swab collection, and I never gave my phone number to anyone. I received hundreds of phone calls from my relatives and neighbours and nobody believes in what I have to tell them,” he said.

One senior health official at the district health department said, “We cannot say for sure what actually happened. We do not have CCTV cameras at testing labs and centres. If they were not present there, then who provided their numbers and how? Some asymptomatic persons are trying to hide the facts after the positive reports. Departmental investigations will continue and the swab and data collection system will be changed to avoid such controversy in the future.”