In the worst-ever spike in new cases, West Bengal reported 1,589 new cases in the last 24 hours and, with 20 deaths in that period, breached the 1,000 mark in the number of lives the pandemic has claimed in the state.
The spike came on a day Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee quoted experts and said numbers could peak over the next two months and instituted a badge of honour for state employees who lost their lives in the Covid battle. 12 government workers have died in the line of duty so far.
The last time Bengal breached the 1,500 mark in new cases was on June 12. 1,560 cases were reported that day, then a slight dip down to 1,390 yesterday and back to 1,589 today. On July 1, the number of new cases was 611.
The only number that is decreasing is the discharge rate. On July 1, the discharge rate was 65.35 per cent. That has slipped to 60.09 per cent today. The positivity rate on July 1 was 3.85 per cent. Today it is 5.30 per cent.
Not just numbers, causing concern is incidents of patients having to go to multiple hospitals before admission, reports of people dying while waiting for admission, a shortage of beds in hospitals.
The opposition Left and Congress may sit in dharna outside the state assembly on Thursday to protest mismanagement of the Covid crisis. CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said it was time for Mamata Banerjee to appoint a full time health minister. Ms Banerjee holds the health portfolio besides several others.
"People of scared... They are scared of the coronavirus but more scared of the mismanagement. They are wondering if they catch the infection, will they be able to do a test, get admission to hospital? They are not sure. The chief minister is doing whatever she likes. It is time West Bengal had a full time health minister and people were told basic things where they should go for a test," Mr Chakraborty said.
BJP's Dilip Ghosh mocked the chief minister's announcement of a Rs 10 lakh compensation for state employees who lost their lives to COVID-19 in the line of duty. "How will she pay compensation for people who have died but had their bodies vanish," Mr Ghosh asked.
"Unnecessarily don't do politics for the sake of it. Don't do dirty politics. This is not the time for dirty politics," Ms Banerjee said today. She was also critical of the media, saying, "Some people just sit and discuss endlessly, why no bed, why no test, people dying. Why negative everywhere? No other state has it. Just because we have a lot of democracy, this is happening. You have to understand. Everyone has to keep vigil and do their duty. We don't issue media advisories or shut down gates... but don't cause panic," she said.
The chief minister said, "We will share some phone numbers where people can find out where they can test, where they can go for admission. Everyone will have to help. This is not only the government's job or the nurse or doctor war. Everybody has to fight the battle."
"Experts are saying that in two months it will peak. Numbers are increasing everywhere. Kolkata is very congested. Uttar Pradesh is a big state, then Bengal. Also Maharashtra. Andhra has been divided. Bengal is a big state. We want cooperation of all," she added.