Reuters Publishes Misleading Claim on Rise in COVID-19 Cases in Bengal
While its news report claims cases quadrupled in poll-bound state since April 1, official data shows a nine-fold rise
International news organisation Reuters, in a recent news report, claimed that COVID-19 cases in West Bengal "have quadrupled since the start of April" owing to election rallies and frenzied public gatherings in the state.
But the claim is misleading since both the number of active cases and the daily increase in positive cases have seen almost a nine-fold increase, according to data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs.
Since the article was published on April 20, 2021, FactChecker looked at data of the first 19 days of the month. According to Centre's data, on April 1 increase in the positive cases in West Bengal in the last 24 hours stood at 982 and this increased to 8,419 on April 19. Cumulatively, the case load in the state as on April 1 was 5,775 and on April 19 it stood at 49,638.
However, on further analysis FactChecker also found that COVID-19 cases did quadruple in a poll bound state. In Tamil Nadu, the number of people who tested positive on April 1, 2021 was 2,579 and this 24-hour increase raised to 10,723 by April 19, 2021. Also, the number of active cases in the state increased from 15,879 on April 1 to 70,391 on April 19, which is also a little over four times an increase.
"Election rallies and public gatherings are undoubtedly some of the factors behind the Covid-19 surge in the state. The public meetings should have been conducted more cautiously through virtual mediums or by dividing the people into smaller groups," said Dr Shaukat Ali, a senior doctor at the Islamia Hospital, Kolkata.
Similarly, according to the data from the West Bengal's Department of Health and Family Welfare, the 24-hour increase in positive cases as on April 1 stood at 1,274 and 8,426 on April 19, which is a seven-fold increase.
There's difference in Centre's and state's data since the MOHFW collects data at a specific time every day and the state's dashboard is updated in real time.
"Everyone from Centre to states, to civil societies, religious groups and political parties had let the guard down even when the mutations were emerging. Moreover, in the mass gatherings due to election or whatever celebrations happened, people were jostling against each other without even wearing a mask. This also includes many of the leaders who were electioneering," said Jacob John, a retired professor of virology from Christian Medical College, Vellore.
According to the latest data that Centre released, as on April 21, 2021, increase in number of active cases in 24 hours in West Bengal stood at 9,819 with an overall 58,386 positive cases. Number of deaths stood at 46 with an overall fatality of 10,652 in the state. Tally of total cases in the state since the pandemic broke out stood at 678,172.
"India was slow in conducting the genomic analysis which started only in the month of March, 2021 and our science failed us since the analysis couldn't alert us," John told FactChecker.