COVID-19 in Bengal: Health secretary Vivek Kumar transferred, NS Nigam takes over

The West Bengal government has transferred state health secretary Vivek Kumar to the state environment department. A new health secretary – Narayan Swarup Nigam – is taking over. Kumar was appointed as the secretary of the environment department and Nigam had been serving as secretary of the transport department.

The transfer is significant under the backdrop of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in the state. However, no official statement was available on the reason for the change.

The Opposition parties in Bengal have been attacking the state government – alleging that COVID-19 death figures were being fudged. There were also allegations of mishandling the situation in several government and private hospitals, which had led to spread of COVID-19 among healthcare professionals. There were also differences between figures of the state and the Centre on COVID-19 deaths, and the government has been trying to clarify these from time to time. The death figures were categorised as death due to COVID-19 and deaths from co-morbidities. A Central government team has also written to the Bengal government informing the authorities that the death rate from COVID-19 in Bengal is among the highest in the country.  Some of these reasons are being assumed to have led to Kumar’s transfer.

Earlier in March, the then secretary of food and supplies department was transferred to another department after complaints of inadequate distribution of ration during the lockdown had been reported.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Bengal till Monday was 118 while 72 deaths were reported as deaths due to co-morbidities. The total number of COVID-19 cases in Bengal till Monday is 2,063.

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