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Out of Blood, Undetected Cases & A Brewing Cyclone: 'Yaas', West Bengal is Gushing Towards 'A Rainy Day'

By: Rounak Kumar Gunjan

News18.com

Last Updated: May 25, 2021, 13:39 IST

Dark clouds hover in the sky ahead of landfall of  Cyclone Yaas at Dhulagarh in Howrah district, Monday. (PTI)

Dark clouds hover in the sky ahead of landfall of Cyclone Yaas at Dhulagarh in Howrah district, Monday. (PTI)

Unlike cyclone Amphan, people being evacuated from coastal districts of West Bengal cannot be cooped up inside camps due to fear of infection.

Streets in West Bengal’s Kolkata are deserted, the skies dark with rain-bearing clouds. Its hospitals overflowing with covid-19 patients. Most blood banks and vaccination centres across the state are running dry. And not just figuratively, there is a ‘very severe’ storm waiting to make a destructive landfall.

Cyclone and Covid-19

Unlike cyclone Amphan, people being evacuated from coastal districts of West Bengal cannot be cooped up inside camps due to fear of infection. Moreover, for a state that is hardly testing in proportion to its population, the risk of unidentified cases is even higher.

People from three coastal districts, South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas and East Midnapore, have been evacuated. More than 100 people have died in these districts due to covid-19 in this week itself.

Officers in the district administration said, compared to cyclone Amphan that ravaged across the state last year, more than five times the number of houses have been arranged in order to ensure social distancing.

A report by The Telegraph said at least 3,000 buildings had been shortlisted primarily in the three districts to shelter the evacuees.

Earlier, 1,000 people were housed at any two-storey high school building .

During cyclone Amphan, the state government had evacuated around 1.5 lakh people before the cyclone hit the coastal areas. This time, the government planned to shift at least 3.5 lakh people based on the latest report on the route of Cyclone Yaas.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said that Cyclone Yaas’s impact could be more severe than Amphan.

Banerjee, who attended a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, is also unhappy with Bengal share of funds promised to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone.

Extensive plans have been adopted for hospitals and vaccine centres, Banerjee said, adding that all types of medicines — on diarrhea, fever, snake bites — have been asked to be kept ready.

At least 1,000 power restoration teams have been kept on stand-by and once the cyclone subsides, they will start working, she said.

CESC Ltd, which supplies power to Kolkata and adjoining areas, said it has engaged 2,500 men on the ground who will work round the clock for power restoration, following the cyclone.

Blood Banks Running Dry

Sources in the Trinamool Congress government revealed that the party has cautioned cadres across districts to ramp up blood donation camps as nearly 90 per cent of them had remained shut after the second covid-19 wave causing acute shortage.

Till Monday, only one-third of the state-wide blood requirement was being collected on a daily basis. The shortage of blood is leading to delaying of various surgeries in the government hospitals.

Transfusion medicine specialist Ritam Chakraborty, in-charge of the blood bank at AMRI Kolkata told TOI, “This is quite alarming. Even common groups like A or B positive are not available on some days.” This has led to planned surgeries being put on hold.

News18 spoke to hospitals across Howrah districts who said that people who required blood were being urged to bring a donor with them.

Many donors are also not stepping out due to lockdown imposed in the state. Also, as per the norms, those who are taking the vaccine shot have to wait for 14 days to donate blood.

Like in the case of Remdesivir and oxygen concentrators, this has given rise to black marketing of blood in the state. Families of patients are complaining of exorbitant demands from people who are ready to donate.

Low Testing, Limited Jabs for Rural Parts

Experts have been flagging West Bengal’s low testing rate for more than two months now. Although the number of tests did go up by close to 10,000 per day, it is hardly in proportion to the state’s population.

The state has been testing a little over 70, 000 samples daily. To understand the anomaly, consider this: Andhra Pradesh, with a similar population has been testing more than a lakh samples daily. With close to 80 percent population, Tamil Nadu has been testing almost thrice the number of samples. With one-third population, even Assam is testing more than a lakh samples daily.

Not just tests, Bengal is lacking in terms of vaccinations. In a report by news agency PTI, the CM was quoted as saying that her government had sought three crore vaccines from the central government for Bengal, of which one crore will be distributed among private hospitals.

However, residents have been complaining of no slots being available. In fact, the rural belts have hardly been vaccinated.

Till May 20, 30 percent of Kolkata and the adjoining urban pockets spread over four districts had been partially vaccinated. In comparison, seven of 14 rural districts have a vaccination percentage of less than 10.

In north Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, only 5.8 percent of the population have received jabs. No other rural district crosses 12 percent coverage.

The state has 507 Covid hospitals in all, which include government facilities, government requisitioned private hospitals, private hospitals, satellite facilities run by hospitals and safe homes (isolation centres), according to the state’s health department database.

The state has been recording a little below 20,000 cases and over 150 deaths every day.

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first published:May 25, 2021, 12:37 IST
last updated:May 25, 2021, 13:39 IST
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