An inter-ministerial central team, deployed to assess the situation in a few districts of West Bengal, on Monday said the state has the highest mortality rate from the coronavirus in the country at 12.8%, PTI reported. In a letter to Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, team leader Apurva Chandra said the “extremely” high mortality rate was a “clear indication of low testing, weak surveillance and tracking”.

Chandra added that a discrepancy has been found in the number of Covid-19 cases reported by the West Bengal Health Department in medical bulletins and in its communication with the Centre.

The inter-ministerial team returned to Delhi after spending two weeks in the state where it reviewed the implementation of the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the infection in certain districts.

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The visit by the inter-ministerial central teams has been mired in controversy. The Ministry of Home Affairs on April 21 had directed the West Bengal government to allow the two inter-ministerial central teams, or IMCTs to carry out their duties after complaints that the ruling Trinamool Congress was not providing the teams access to some districts.

“We have only visited Nabanna and NICED [National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases],” Chandra had said. “These are the only two places we have visited since we came here yesterday morning. Our order of deployment also says that the state government is to provide logistic support to us.” However, he added, this had not been granted.

The state government denied the allegation, and claimed that it was not informed in advance about the visit of the teams. The visit of the ICMT teams to the state has also been criticised by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the leaders of her party.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien last month had repeated Banerjee’s claim that the state was not informed in advance about the visit of the teams. He labelled the visit as “adventure tourism” and wondered why teams were not sent to states with a much higher number of cases and hotspots.

The number of coronavirus cases in the country has crossed the 40,000-mark to reach 42,533 cases and the toll has risen to 1,373.