Massive surge in Covid infections has Bengal govt on tenterhooks

Kolkata, April 9 (IANS) With masks vanishing from public life and Covid protocols being ignored in election rallies and meetings there has been a more than 14-fold rise in the number of Covid cases in West Bengal in the last one month. The state government has started imposing restrictions on public life to check the spread of the virus.

The Covid-19 case count in Bengal this year shows the infection rate has doubled since last year. While it took two months for the number to increase 10 times last year, this year it has happened in less than a month. Going by the health department statistics on May 24 last year, the state had recorded 208 fresh daily cases. It took a little more than two months for the daily cases to rise 10-fold when Bengal reported 2,198 cases on July 18. This year, 255 new cases were reported on March 16 and the fresh cases of Covid reached 2783 on April 8.

The massive surge in Covid cases has prompted the state government to go back to 50% employee attendance in government offices. The state government in October last year decided to reduce the number of employees attending office to 50% and asked them to work on a rotational basis. However, with the improvement in the situation there was relaxation and more employees started coming to office. Chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhya in a meeting on Thursday decided to go back to the rotational method of 50% attendance while the rest of the employees were asked to work from home.

Not only that the steep surge has prompted the state health department to call back senior doctors, including infectious diseases specialist Yogiraj Ray, who had played a sterling role in combating Covid during the first phase of the infection, to Beliaghata ID Hospital. The nodal hospital for Covid care currently has 265 beds and 100 more are ready to tackle the surge in patients. Ray was released from the ID Hospital to the School of Tropical Medicine about a couple of months ago. In addition to Ray, the health department has also called in two more senior doctors, Rajarshi Basu and Arijit Sinha, both from NRS Medical College, for Covid duty at Beliaghata hospital.

It has also asked government hospitals as well as private facilities to gear up to meet all eventualities. “All the hospitals that had Covid facilities have been asked to reactivate them so that they can meet the increasing needs of the Covid patients,” a senior official of the health department said.

The Calcutta High Court is also thinking of restricting the number of lawyers according to their cases as was done during the previous phase.

“The speed of vaccination is crucial at this juncture. Now with the 45 plus (workforce) included in the inoculation programme and the daily number of vaccinations hitting above 30 lakhs in about 10 weeks, about 30 crore people should have some protection. If this vaccination speed jumps up further, we will hopefully reach a baseline by July end,” the official said.