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At Covid meeting, Mamata tells PM to clear Bengal’s dues

In a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday over the Covid situation, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee again reminded him that the Centre owes the state money, and urged Modi to ensure that his government issues guidelines on “which vaccine is to be procured and used to fight the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“The state is yet to receive Rs 4,135 crore towards GST compensation and overall dues of Rs 53,000 crore from Centre,” Banerjee reiterated, urging Modi to pay the dues as early as possible.

At an online event on July 27 in which Modi unveiled testing facilities, the Chief Minister had told Modi, “Kuchh kuchh to dilaiye [Provide us some of the dues]. We have a huge financial burden. We have already spent Rs 2,500 crore to fight against Covid-19.”

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by the chief ministers of 10 states that account for 80 per cent of the active cases. At the meeting, Banerjee requested the Centre to provide the state more High Flow Nasal Cannulas — an oxygen supply system — and ventilators.

Banerjee said in West Bengal 89% of the deaths were because of comorbidities. “At the start, we had placed emphasis on death audits, but now we have been vindicated as comorbidities are an important element in the Covid deaths, with 89 per cent of the deaths in our state occurring due to comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and cardiac disease.”

The Chief Minister listed the measures taken to stem the rise in cases and fatalities. She said, “All treatment in state hospitals and government-requisitioned private hospitals, including ambulance services, are completely free. Also, the ‘Swasthya Sathi Card’ has been provided to 7.5 crore people, with a health coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family. West Bengal has more than 100 safe homes for people who have difficulty isolating themselves at home. Tele-medicine services are being provided by 96 doctors 24×7 through a toll-free number. We have also engaged postgraduate university students in tele-services. Tele-psychological counselling is also being provided by psychological counsellors, who keep a tab on patients who have tested positive.”

Banerjee said her administration had set up a comprehensive Covid Patient Management System, or CPMS, to identify patients in a critical condition, and those with moderate or mild symptoms, and those who are asymptomatic “on a real-time basis for immediate medical attention”.

“Every patient admitted to government or private hospitals is monitored centrally by health experts. Expert teams consisting of government and private doctors are daily visiting Covid hospitals and issuing necessary advisories. Our ASHAs and health workers have made 30 crore visits to 2.5 crore households, counselling and providing medical assistance to 2.5 lakh people identified with SARI/ILI [severe acute respiratory illness/influenza-like illnesses]. We have involved about one crore SHG members for Covid awareness and guidance to people,” Banerjee said.

The Trinamool Congress government has been facing flak from both the Centre and Opposition parties in the state over rising Covid-19 deaths and infections.

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