West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday alleged that the Centre had sent defective Covid-19 testing kits to the state, PTI reported. Banerjee has also fiercely opposed the visit of the teams sent by the Centre to review the situation in the state.
Banerjee said all rapid testing kits sent to West Bengal have been withdrawn by the Union health ministry, according to the news agency. She added that the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) nodal agency in the state, had asked the state government to not use the the RT-PCR [Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction] kits.
The chief minister said that since rapid testing kits and the RT-PCR kits had been withdrawn, the only alternative left for testing was antigen kits, adding those kits were not available at state hospitals.
Doctors in West Bengal have repeatedly flagged the state’s low testing numbers. Heath officials from the state told Scroll.in that the the Trinamool Congress government was not following the ICMR’s guidelines strictly enough. They alleged that even high-risk healthcare workers were not being tested as per the guidelines.
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Banerjee denied the allegations that West Bengal was not testing enough people. “Canards are being spread every day that only a few are getting tested in Bengal for Covid-19,” she said. “This is absolutely false. Faulty kits were sent to Bengal which have now been withdrawn. We didn’t even get adequate testing kits.”
Banerjee also addressed allegations that the her government had not been providing personal protection equipment, or PPE, to health workers. She said that West Bengal received only 7,000 PPE kits from the Centre but the state government procured and distributed more than 4 lakh kits.
The West Bengal chief minister also hit out at the Centre over the visit of the ICMT teams to the state. “Every day, they [the Centre] are telling us what to do and what not to do, sending people to look into the law and order situation and our preparedness against coronavirus,” she said. “They are sending us strongly-worded letters. We can also send them letters. But that’s not the point.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the West Bengal government had said that it will fully cooperate with the Inter-ministerial central teams sent by the Centre to review the Covid-19 situation in the state. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had directed the state government to allow the two inter-ministerial central teams, or IMCTs, to carry out their duties after the team leaders alleged that that the ruling Trinamool Congress was not providing them access to some districts.
West Bengal has 456 cases of the coronavirus, according to data from the Union health ministry. Fifteen Covid-19 patients in the state have died so far.
Governor asks Banerjee to cooperate with the Centre
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Thursday said that he was concerned about the way the state government had rebuffed the Centre’s teams. “Urge @MamataOfficial to ensure seamless way forward for Central Teams,” he wrote on Twitter. “Concerned at Rebuff to Central Teams. Red Carpet visit of WHO to East Midnapur and Bishnupur,” he added. “What outcome and gain of WHO visit ? Declare ! Time to take to Constitution.”
In an tweet on Wednesday, Dhankhar had said, “Appeal to Mamta Banerjee to be in tandem with Narendra Modi in the interest of the state.”
At the press conference on Wednesday, Banerjee refused to comment on Dhankhar’s critical tweets, according to NDTV. “He is a tall man. We are small people,” she said. “The less said about him the better.”