The Central team visiting West Bengal has demanded that the State government provide information on nine aspects, which include testing criteria and instances of COVID-19 among health care workers.
Additional Secretary Apurva Chandra, who was rushed to Kolkata on April 20 to take stock of the State’s preparedness in the wake of the pandemic, shot off a letter to the State Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha on Wednesday seeking a detailed presentation on the level of testing, protocol adopted for testing, availability of personal protective equipment and masks for health professionals, availability of oxygen beds, ICUs, number of surveillance teams and COVID care hospitals, instances of COVID in healthcare workers and system of approval of cause of declaration of death of COVID patients by a committee.
The Inter Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) also wanted to know about the procedure for identifying and quarantining people, supply of essential commodities, condition of the relief camps and “support required from the Government of India” in this regard.
The team asked the State government to arrange visits to quarantine centres, hotspots and market places and wanted an opportunity to interact with health care workers on the ground.
Other than logistic support, the team demanded that coveralls and other protective equipment be provided to them while touring the areas.
Earlier, refuting the claims of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the State government said that “up-to-date” reports have been shared with the team and “it is not a fact” that there was no cooperation.
Responding to a letter by the Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said in a letter that the Central team met him twice and he had shared up-to-date reports with them. “The teams arrived without any prior consultation, so there was no opportunity to provide logistic help, [and] neither did they ask for any help,” Mr. Sinha’s letter said.
The letter added that the teams were visiting various places for making on-the-spot assessment and assured the implementation of the DM Act and the directions of the Supreme Court.
MHA had said that the two Central teams to Kolkata and Jalpaiguri had not been provided with the requisite cooperation by the State and local authorities and it amounted to obstructing implementation of orders issued under Disaster Management Act, 2005.
“It was informed that they have been specifically restrained from making any visits, interacting with health professionals, and assessing the ground level situation. This amounts to obstructing the implementation of the Orders issued by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and equally binding directions of the Supreme Court of India,” Mr. Bhalla had said in the letter.
The teams were deputed under the authority conferred on the Central government under Section 35 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
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