Delhi: The inter-ministerial Central team that visited Kolkata, Howrah and certain other districts in West Bengal, to check its coronavirus preparation, noted that the state has the highest mortality rate among COVID-19 patients.

West Bengal has the highest mortality rate in the country at 12.8%, inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) leader Apoorva Chandra wrote in his final observations to state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, before leaving for Delhi on Monday. "This extremely high mortality rate is a clear indication of low testing, weak surveillance and tracking," Chandra said in the letter.

A discrepancy has been brought to the fore in the number of COVID-19 cases reported by the state in its medical bulletins and its communication with the Union government, Chandra noted in the letter.

The team, led by Chandra, returned to the national capital after having completed two weeks of stay in the city.

While praising the state on some counts, including increasing daily testing from 400 to 2,410 per day between April 20 and May 2, it also flagged the non-cooperation of the state bureaucracy. Yet to submit its final report to the Centre, it urged the state to take its suggestions “in the right spirit”.

In his letter, Chandra said, “The IMCT notes that the state government has on 30.04.2020 made a pronouncement that henceforth all death of COVID patients would be indicated in the daily statistics and the death certificate would be issued by hospitals with the Committee of Doctors examining random samples. This is a big step towards transparency. At the same time, it raises the total death count of COVID patients in the state to 105 on 30.04.2020. For a total reported number of 816 COVID patients, the mortality rate of 12.8% is by far the highest in the country. This extremely high mortality rate is a clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance and tracking.”

The letter also alleged discrepancy in various COVID-related data released by the state government. It said that in one instance the state’s medical bulletin put the total patients at 744 but on the same day gave the figure of 931 in a communication to the Union ministry of health affairs (MHA).

“The state needs to be transparent and consistent in reporting COVID figures and not downplay the spread of the virus. The bulletins of 1st and 2nd May do not even mention the total number of cases and deaths in the state,” the letter states.

West Bengal had called the move “against the spirit of federalism” and there were multiple reports of bureaucratic and political clashes between the Centre and the state over it.

While Gujarat has among it the worst-affected cities in the country, Ahmedabad and Surat, the IMCT that visited the state said its government was alert and proactive in containing the corona outbreak.

With inputs from agencies