Central team seeks presentation from Bengal govt on COVID-19 situation; TMC dubs their visit 'adventure tourism'

A team has also been sent to visit West Bengal's Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. This team is led by Vineet Joshi, an additional secretary rank officer in the central government.

Press Trust of India April 25, 2020 14:47:13 IST
Central team seeks presentation from Bengal govt on COVID-19 situation; TMC dubs their visit 'adventure tourism'

New Delhi/Kolkata: An inter ministerial central team, which is in Kolkata to assess the COVID-19 situation, on Wednesday sought a detailed presentation from the West Bengal government on whether the level of testing in the state is adequate and enough oxygen and ICU beds and ventilators are available.

Central team seeks presentation from Bengal govt on COVID19 situation TMC dubs their visit adventure tourism

File image of Mamata Banerjee. News18

In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, the head of the team Apurva Chandra also sought a briefing on whether the testing facilities available in the state are being used in full and the protocol adopted for testing and the level at which conduct of a COVID-19 test is approved.

He asked Sinha to provide members of the team with all logistic support as directed by the Union home ministry and expressed the desire to visit hospitals, hotspots, quarantine centres and markets.

Chandra, an additional secretary in the central government, said since the state government has now decided to extend full cooperation to the team, a detailed presentation should be made by the (state) health department to it with special emphasis on these aspects.

Whether the level of testing in the state is adequate, whether the testing facilities available in the state are being used in full, the protocol adopted for testing and the level at which conduct of a COVID test is approved and availability of safety equipment like PPE and mask and distribution to health professionals in COVID and non-COVID hospitals, he said about the aspects.

Presentation has been sought on the availability of oxygen beds, ICU beds, oxygen supplies and ventilators, the number of surveillance teams and the number of persons surveyed daily in hotspots and containment zones, the system of COVID care centres, COVID health centres, COVID health hospitals in four districts.

The central team should also be briefed on the instances of COVID-19 in health professionals and protective measures in this regard for the health professionals and at the hospitals concerned, system of approval of cause of declaration of death for COVID-19 patients by a committee of doctors at state level, Chandra said.

The team led by Chandra is visiting Kolkata, Howrah, Midnapore (East) and 24 Parganas (North) districts to assess the containment of COVID-19 .

Sources said the members stayed indoors at the BSF guest house at Gurusaday Dutta Road in South Kolkata. Meanwhile, Sinha said the state government is fully cooperating with the teams.

"We are cooperating with the teams. We had provided them with all sort of support. But in case, they want to venture outside Kolkata, they should let us know we will make necessary arrangements, " he said.

The divisional commissioner in Jalpaiguri met the second central team camped in North Bengal and shared all information, he said.

A team has also been sent to visit West Bengal's Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong. This team is led by Vineet Joshi, an additional secretary rank officer in the central government.

Senior district officials Wednesday met Joshi at the SSB camp office in Jalpaiguri, where they had put up, and briefed them about steps taken in the districts in order to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.

Chandra said the central team may be informed of the arrangements for identifying and quarantining people in quarantine centres, supply of essential commodities and condition of relief camps, enforcement of lockdown procedure and social distancing after the revised orders applicable from 20 April.

The central team also wanted to understand any problems faced by the state government in implementation of the lockdown orders, availability of testing kits etc and support required from Union government in this regard.

After full appreciation of the status of preparedness of the state government regarding COVID and any other issues, the team would like to visit some of the hospitals, quarantine centres, hotspots and market places during opening hours and directly interact with the health professionals, inmates and the general public, the letter said.

It is requested that the team may be accompanied by relevant officers of the health department, local bodies and other departments involved in implementing the health and disinfection measures apart from supply of essential commodities, operation of quarantine centres and the managements of the relevant hospitals and not just a police officer who will have no or limited knowledge of any other measures apart from implementation of lockdown, it said.

It is also requested that keeping in view the threat of exposure to the coronavirus , necessary safety equipment like PPE etc. may be arranged for the central team prior to its visit to such places, the letter said.

"We would request the state government to provide full logistic support as directed in the order of MHA dated 19 April, as no such logistic support has been forthcoming till now, he said.

"In view of the above, we look forward to your early response and the programme schedule so that the team could utilise its stay in Kolkata better and fulfil the mandate of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs," the letter said.

The central team also gave a list of hospitals, quarantine centres, hotspots and market places it wanted to visit.

Chandra also wrote that the team arrived in Kolkata on April 20 around 10 am and immediately contacted the chief secretary seeking his time as well as support of state government for making the visit effective.

Referring to the April 10 order of the home ministry, Chandra said the state government was required to provide logistic support to the team, for their accommodation (lodging and boarding), transportation, PPE and extend all cooperation for the visit of local areas, production of documents and records etc.

Chandra also mentioned about his two meetings with the chief secretary and an hour-long Kolkata city tour for a visual appreciation of the lockdown.

After Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla directed the West Bengal government to provide cooperation to the visiting teams, Sinha late Tuesday night wrote back assuring all help.

However, Chandra's letter gave an indication that the team is yet to get the required assistance.

A total of six central teams have been deputed to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal to review the implementation of the lockdown measures after making on-spot assessment of the situation prevailing in the identified districts.

The teams comprise public health specialists and officers of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), whose expertise can be leveraged by the state government for management of COVID-19 pandemic.

The teams were deputed under the authority conferred on the central government under Section 35 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 which states that "..the central government shall take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of Disaster Management".

Bhalla, in his Tuesday's letter, also quoted a recent Supreme Court observation that the state governments will faithfully comply with the directives and orders issued by the Union of India in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety.

These observations of the apex court, the home secretary said, must be treated as directions and faithfully complied with.

The home ministry had on Monday said COVID-19 situation is "especially serious" in Mumbai, Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata and a few other places in West Bengal, and violation of lockdown measures risk the spread of the novel coronavirus .

West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, however, dubbed the visit of the central teams as "adventure tourism" and asked why such delegations were not sent to states with much higher numbers of infections and hotspots.

Updated Date:

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