Kerala government yesterday decided to include 7,000 more victims of Covid-19 pandemic in its official death list after protest by the opposition alleging under-reporting of Coronavirus deaths in the state. State Health Minister Veena George said 7,000 more deaths, which occurred before the hospitals started uploading the data of such deaths online, will be added to the COVID death list in the state. The hospitals started uploading the COVID-19 deaths online in June this year.
However, this isn’t the first, where a state has revised the Covid-19 death toll after adding ‘backlog deaths’. Earlier, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra revised their death toll by adding ‘backlog deaths’ to their figures, seeing tremendous increase in the toll. Let’s look at the addition of ‘backlog cases’ scenario across states in India:
In June this year, Bihar revised its Covid-19 toll by adding 3,951 deaths, an increase of 72.8 percent that was attributed to fatalities at private hospitals, homes and of post-disease complications not recorded earlier. It was being said that the death toll was mostly calculated from the data by the government hospitals; excluding the fatalities in private hospitals and outside the government hospitals.
The Bihar government had undertaken a 20-day exercise to audit Covid-19 deaths after the Patna high court flagged irregularities in death figures in Buxar district on May 17. After verification, the state’s Covid-19 cumulative toll jumped to 9,375 on June 8, as against 5,424 reported a day earlier.
In July, Madhya Pradesh on Monday added 1,478 ‘backlog deaths’ from the second wave of the pandemic till June 30 raising the Covid-19 death toll in the state to 10,506 from 9,027 deaths until Sunday.
The additional deaths came after the government issued a letter to all district authorities in June urging them to report any deaths till June 30 which were not added earlier on the government’s ‘Sarthak’ portal.
Madhya Pradesh had been facing allegations of under-reporting Covid-19 deaths during the second wave. In an earlier report in April, the official death toll in Bhopal was 109 while the data from three Covid-19 designated crematoriums and one graveyard had carried out over 2,500 cremations, outnumbering the state’s tally for the month of April.
Maharashtra’s Covid death toll has risen by 29,920 fatalities in under two months, from 95,958 deaths on 28 May to 1,25,878 by 11 July. Out of these 23,000 cases were backlog deaths, which had occurred much before the date they were officially registered.
It had reported a jump of 2,479 positive cases in the state’s overall tally in July. Another report in Hindustan Times from June said that since May 1, Maharashtra had added almost 9,000 deaths from Covid-19 under the category of “reconciliation deaths”, pushing the death toll. The discrepancy that’s being corrected, though, has simply to do with delayed reporting rather than underreporting or misreporting of deaths.
Some international media reports including The Economist have suggested that India’s Covid-19 deaths could be several times the official estimates. However, the government has denied report terming it “speculative”, “without any basis and seems to be misinformed”.