Mamata writes to PM, seeks increase in supply of oxygen as Bengal's COVID situation worsens

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking increased supply of medical oxygen for COVID-19 treatment.

Banerjee also said that the Centre hiked oxygen allocation for other states out of the total production in Bengal, despite its enhanced requirement.

The chief minister said daily consumption of oxygen in her state has gone up to 470 MT in the last 24 hours and is expected to increase to 550 MT per day in about a week.

“I would request you to kindly have the allocation of medical oxygen reviewed and instructions issued for an immediate allocation of at least 550 MT per day of MO,” she said in the letter to Modi.

Any allocation less than the requested amount will not only adversely affect the supply, but may also result in loss of lives of patients in the state, Banerjee said.

“Government of India has increased allocation of MO to other states, from the total production in West Bengal, during the last 10 days from 230 MT to 360 MT, keeping allocation for us constant at 308 MT per day despite its requirement of 550 MT,” the CM aaded.

The state’s COVID-19 fatalities rose to 11,964 on Thursday after 117 deaths, the highest so far in a single day, were reported, the health department said in a bulletin.

The caseload also mounted to 9,35,066 after the state registered a record one-day spike of 18,431 fresh infections.

In the last 24 hours, 17,412 recoveries were reported, taking the total number of cured people to 8,00,328.

The state now has 1,22,774 active cases, the bulletin said.

Of the fresh fatalities, North 24 Parganas reported 36 and Kolkata 33.

The remaining deaths were registered in several other districts.

Out of the 117 deaths, 46 were caused due to comorbidities where COVID-19 was incidental.

The 18,431 new positive cases included 3,922 from North 24 Parganas and 3,887 from Kolkata, the bulletin said.

Since Wednesday, 60,105 samples have been tested for COVID-19 in West Bengal, taking the total number of such tests to 1,07,77,718.

Commuters face heat as new travel curbs kick in 

Commuters travelled in overcrowded buses or cycled long distances in hot summer temperatures to reach their offices as measures taken by the West Bengal government came into effect on Thursday to contain the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others had to shell out far higher sums than on other days for rides in shuttle cars, if they could find one as scores passengers waited in serpentine queues for state transport buses.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had reviewed the pandemic situation in the state after taking oath on Wednesday, had ordered suspension of local train services and ordered that Metro Railways, the lifeline of the city, and state transport bus service operation be curtailed by 50 per cent as part of the steps to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Metro Railway has reduced its total daily services to 192 in view of the state government order, a Metro Railways official said.

Starting Friday, the first Metro from Dumdum and Kavi Subhash will start at 8 am and the last service from these stations will be at 8 pm, the official said.

As a result long queues at bus stands and overcrowded buses were seen in different parts of the city and neighbouring North and South 24 Parganas districts during morning rush hours.

Banerjee, who said that her first priority is to control the pandemic situation in the state, had also ordered that state government and private offices will run with 50 per cent staff till further order.

“I stay at Baruipur in South 24 Parganas, I travel to my office in Kolkata by train regularly, but today I had to make the journey in a overcrowded private bus,” said Monoj Ghosh.

Another person travelling to work from Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas said he had to travel by a shuttle taxi, paying Rs 100 for a journey which generally costs him less than Rs 10 by suburban train.

“Since our offices are functioning we have to come. But boarding a crowded bus would mean risking COVID-19 infection amid this raging pandemic,” said Ranjit Mukherje, another commuter.

Some people even cycled 30 kms om places as far as Dhapdhapi in South 24 Parganas or Barasat in North 24 Parganas.

People coming to work in the city from Howrah and Hooghly districts were seen riding motorcycles to their destinations to avoid travelling in overcrowded buses.

The Metro Railway authorities said that it is strictly following the ban on entry in its premises without a face mask.

Suburban trains, considered the lifeline for millions in Bengal, had resumed services on November 11 last year after more than seven months, owing to COVID-19 restrictions.

Those arriving in West Bengal by train must carry negative RT-PCR report, the Railways said on Thursday citing an order from the chief secretary of the state.

West Bengal is the latest among a number of states which have made it mandatory for passengers to carry negative RT-PCR tests in order to gain entry into the state.

“The Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal have issued an order. Incoming passengers by long distance trains and inter-state buses will also mandatorily carry RT- PCR negative test reports.”

“No West Bengal-bound passenger is expected to board a train or bus with destination in West Bengal without such a test report. Random checking will be arranged in this regard, for inter alia, checking the authenticity of the test reports also,” the Railways said quoting the state government order.

West Bengal, which was in election mode with the Assembly poll results being announced on May 2, has reported a huge surge in cases in the past few days.