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COVID-19: Red Volunteers Battle One of the Highest Positivity Rates in Bengal

Only Goa and Puducherry, at 49.6% and 42.8%, rank higher than West Bengal, where the recently concluded polls have had an impact.
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Kolkata May 12th: West Bengal stands third among Indian states in the COVID-19 positivity rate table with the percentage at 34.4%. Only Goa and Puducherry, at 49.6% and 42.8%, rank higher than Bengal, where the recently concluded polls have had an impact.

A total of 20,377 fresh infections were reported from the state on Wednesday with the corresponding number of active COVID-19 cases at 1,28,684. The high positivity rate is being attributed to the state elections where political parties, especially the ones in power at the Centre and in the state, continuing to campaign till close to the final polling day.

Now, a force of about 80,000 red volunteers are in nooks and corners of the state, breaching the gap between demand and supply in services being rendered to COVID-19 patients .

On Sunday, noted health expert Dr. Arun Singh met with red volunteers in the districts of South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah. He was effusive in his praise for the volunteers armed with PPE kits, showed them first-aid techniques and measures needed to handle oxygen cylinders.

Notably, as in other parts of India, West Bengal too is suffering from an Oxygen crisis. However, the volunteers have managed to co-ordinate with Oxygen suppliers in case of distress calls for patients in need. Interestingly, this co-ordination was initially being done through a Facebook page, which is still up. There is a website which is now being promoted as well to meet people's requirements. The volunteers need PPE kits as a first requirement to serve patients. With a fiercely contested election just behind them, they need to remain unfazed in the face of taunts courtesy rival opposition party workers and supporters. They continue to carry out their work, however.

In the district of Purba Medinipur in the Haldia industrial area, red volunteers have taken on the onus of reaching out to the houses of common people in distress They are also taking steps to ensure that life-saving drugs, sanitisation work and Oxygen cylinders reach any victim's house when needed. Paritosh Patnaik and Monika Karpaik are two such volunteers at work here. .

Patnaik told the media that teams of two to three persons have been formed in each of the wards. The demand is such that they are having to sanitise about 30 to 40 houses on a daily basis. The volunteeers have also been donating blood to between 10 to 15 persons daily.

In Kolkata and its neighbouring areas, even the funerals of COVID-19 patients are being taken care of by the. On Tuesday, the harrowed family of school-teacher Rathindranath Pramanik in Shyampur, North 24 Parganas, needed help, with their matriarch having passed away from the disease. The volunteers helped the family arrange for her body to be taken to a crematorium.

One red volunteer is said to receive between 100 to 150 calls for help everyday on an average. They make sense of the problem at hand and direct the call to listed volunteers in the concerned area.

Most of them are working overtime with or without PPE kits at their disposal to reach COVID-19 patients with Oxygen cylinders or other such essentials. With most members of families down with the disease in affected houses, the volunteers have also been arranging meals from nearby facilties.

The state of West Bengal has been hit hard by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as have others. A total of 12,728 persons have succumbed to the pandemic so far in the state.

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