Counting India’s Covid deaths: Is official data showing the real catastrophe of 2nd wave?

Coronavirus Death Rate in India, Covid-19 Fatality Rate India: Many research organisations have pointed out that almost every single country is under-reporting the Covid numbers.

Counting India’s Covid deaths: Is official data showing the real catastrophe of 2nd wave?
With hospitals running out of oxygen and crematorium frames melting away, India is witnessing more and more citizens dying due to Covid-19 infection. (PTI Photo)

India’s Covid-19 Fatality Rate Latest Update: India on Tuesday lost 1,761 lives due to the raging second wave of the coronavirus. 1,761 men, women, daughters, sons, dreams and hopes are dead. Bodies are piling up in morgues, hospitals and crematorium and burial grounds. Plumes of smoke can be seen from afar in Bhopal. In Lucknow, the authorities covered up the cremation site with blue asbestos sheets after a viral video clip on social media showed an unending cycle of cremations. In Ahmedabad and Surat, the metal frames have melted due to exponentially high numbers of cremations. So, is India counting its corona deaths with all due checks and balances or is there a mismatch? In simple terms, the answer can be an honest yes and a resounding no. World over, reporting the Covid numbers is an issue.

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Family members and hearse van drivers show tokens handed out by cremation ground administration in Lucknow. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Many research organisations have pointed out that almost every single country is under-reporting the Covid numbers. Most of the time, it is not just about the ‘reputation’ of the country but also about the performance of the officials in tackling the pandemic. Questions were raised and are still being raised about China’s corona tally. Many have questioned why only certain provinces reported high numbers and how China has been able to beat the virus, which originally was reported from Wuhan.

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Now, coming to the ‘no’. In India, there has been a set SOP about how the local officials will report a Covid death. After a person dies, the members of the local task force unit reach there. Now, the critical aspect is ‘comorbidity.’ In India, if a person had a pre-existing disease, chances are that her/his death will not be recorded as a Covid death. This was also pointed out by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. When asked about the visuals circulating on social media, though he admitted about the increased number of deaths yet he didn’t say that most people are dying due to Covid-19 infection. Last week, North Delhi Mayor Jai Prakash had claimed that the Arvind Kejriwal government was not reporting the actual Covid deaths.

While the official data was 141 that day, Prakash had claimed that 193 people died due to Covid. In neighbouring Ghaziabad also, the situation is very similar. While the official data showed two deaths last week, the Hindon crematorium was lined up with ambulances with bodies inside. The same is the case in Bhopal, where the official data showed 4 Covid deaths, whereas over 100 bodies were cremated with Covid protocols.

Also Read: Higher positivity rate, oxygen requirements, and death rate explained

Such is the surge that crematorium sites are distributing tokens to the families while they wait for their turn. A Reuters report has also highlighted the mismatch. The very public testimonies of the morgue workers, ambulance drivers, social media posts are making it increasingly clear that there is an acute gap between the official tally and the actual death counts. There seems to be a cyclical trend about this. During the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus in India last year, The Lancet had also published a report on how there was little clarity on the classification of corona deaths, which in turn questioned India’s claim to the lowest mortality rate despite being the second-most populous nation in the world. Question is – Are we repeating ourselves?

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First published on: 20-04-2021 at 17:06 IST