Aspike in Covid-19 cases continued in South Dinajpur, as the district reported 120 more infections today in RT-PCR test reports that came in from the Malda Medical College and Hospital and the rapid antigen and TrueNat tests carried out in Balurghat.

The number is expected to rise in the night when the results of the rapid antigen and TrueNat tests conducted in the Balurghat Hospital are released, sources said. The total number of infected persons in the district has now gone up to 3346, while 40 patients were discharged from hospitals today. A total of 2104 infected people in the district have recovered so far, sources said.

82 fresh cases in Malda

In Malda, 82 of the 558 samples tested in the MMCH were found positive last night.Among the new cases, KaliachakIII had 19, HarishchandrapurI had 14,
Manikchak 13 and English Bazaar Municipality 10.

Contract health workers up in arms

Meanwhile, in Siliguri, contractual health workers, including honorary health workers (HHW) and first-tier supervisors (FTS), who have been
engaged in conducting house to house Covid-19 survey to arrange for ambulance to carry Covid patients, staged a demonstration at the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) today, demanding payment of their salary and honorarium (SNS photo). They also threatened to go on a hunger strike if the demands are not met within seven days.

The workers led a deputation under the banner of the Darjeeling District Health Workers’ Union and submitted a six-point charter of
demands to the SMC. There are 36 FTS and 224 HHW.

“We work as frontline workers to deal with Covid-19. We conduct door-to-door survey, ensuring hospitalisation of patients and arrangements for ambulance, by visiting containment zones in all 47 wards. Most of the health workers depend on the salary to run their families, but we are yet to receive the same since July, and honorarium. The corporation had assured us Rs 100 daily and the state government announced Rs 1000, but we have been denied that,” said the union secretary Sefali Bhattacharya.

Ms Bhattacharya said they would go on a hunger strike if their payments were not made within seven days.

An FTS gets Rs 3,338, while an HHW gets 3,125 every month. The health workers are also supposed to get Rs 1000 as honorarium from the state government.

Officials, on the other hand, said the coffers of the civic body had gone dry. “The expenditure has increased manifold while dealing with Covid-19, and revenue earning has been severely hit,” said an official.

Leader of the Opposition coordinators, Ranjan Sarkar, said they stand by the demand of the health workers.

Member of the Board of Administrators (BoA) at the SMC, health, Sankar Ghosh, said their demands were logical. Chairperson of the BoA, Asok Bhattacharya, however, said the state government had sent their salary today. “The state government had delayed the salary and the honorarium,”he said.

Asok writes to Hakim

Meanwhile, Mr Bhattacharya wrote to urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim about extension of the moratorium of loans of self-help groups (SHG). According to him, business activities had been on
stake for the past four months as most of the SHG members had been involved in small business and street vending.

“As a result, they are facing a huge burden in repaying the loans (both principal and interest) to the groups as well as banks,” Mr Bhattacharya said. He added that the SMC had 1612 SHGs and around 25,000 SHG members are involved under the National Urban Livelihood Mission and uplifting their livelihood through various business and activities with the help of financial assistance provided through group loan and bank credit linkage. Around 700 groups have been credit linked.

He has requested Mr Hakim to take steps to extend the moratorium from 10 months to two years in case of SHG inter-lending loans and from 12 months to 24 months in case of cash credit loans from banks.

Meanwhile, three persons who had tested positive for Covid-19 died in three separate health facilities in Siliguri today. A-28-year-old resident of Darjeeling was admitted in the Desun Hospital on 12 August, while a 70-year-old resident of Naxalbari died in the respiratory intensive care unit of the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.

A 63-year-old resident of Jaigaon in Alipurduar died at Dr Chhang’s Hospital.

85 cases in Darj district

Meanwhile, 85 fresh cases have been found in Darjeeling district, while the Siliguri Municipal Corporation recorded 43 cases, of which 28 were in wards under Darjeeling district, officials said. In the plains, 20 cases were recorded in Naxalbari, 16 in Matigara, two in Kharibari, six in Phansidewa and two cases at
Sukna. In the Hills, two persons were freshly infected in Mirik, two in Bijanbari, four in Pulbazaar, two in Sukhia Pokhari, and one in Takdah, sources said.

JAP memo to CMOH

In Kalimpong, the youth front of the Jana Andolan Party (JAP) today submitted a memorandum to the CMOH in the district, demanding that the several problems in the district hospital be solved.

The youth wing mainlyfocused on alleged negligence on the part of the Kalimpong District Hospital over delayed Covid swab tests of a 68-yearold woman from Teesta recently.

The Jana Andolan Yuva Ekai leader Vishal Rai said, “We have submitted a memorandum to the CMOH, and marked a copy to the GTA. If we see no positive results within 10 days, we will write to the West Bengal chief secretary.”

The male and female wards in the Kalimpong hospital are closed, hitting many people from the municipality as well as rural areas.