The West Bengal government on Friday reiterated that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state is static at five. It has been five since April 7, when chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced the enhanced figure at a press conference. On April 2, the figure was at three.
But the government figures being loudly questioned in social media and local news compelled chief secretary Rajeev Sinha to address the issue.
"We have seen some news reports and also in social media that there seems to be some confusion over the death figures. It is being said we are not giving the proper figures," he said in the press meet that he addressed on Friday.
"I want to stress that all reports of deaths that we get we are giving to the audit committee. This is a committee of experts and only when they confirm that this death is because of COVID-19, only then are we reporting it," he said.
"Those deaths that they are saying is due to other reasons or due to comorbidities, we are not reporting," the chief secretary said.
Mr Sinha also declared that the Kolkata Municipal corporation had no authority to declare any deaths due to COVID-19.
This remark was in response by reports that the Kolkata municipal corporation had listed 10 deaths in recent days as deaths due to COVID-19. The list was on a Kolkata municipal corporation note on where the last rites of the COVID-19 victims had been performed.
The last rites list was taken up by Union minister Babul Supriyo who said many doctors in Kolkata has privately told him that the government figures on the COVID-19 impact were not accurate.
"This government has set up at least two firewalls (like the audit committee) that people have to get through to get the real picture of what is going on in this state. I have the Kolkata municipal corporation list of deaths and I can see it is very different from the state government list of COVID-19 victims," he said.
Babul Supriyo's comments came almost at the same time as Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi. In his press conference on Friday afternoon, Dr Harsh Vardhan categorically said that he regretted that the centre was not getting the accurate picture on COVID-19 impact from certain states. He declined to name the states.