1 in 5 fatalities old: Covid toll rises as states reconcile numbers

Updated on Jun 13, 2021 02:23 PM IST

Nearly one out of every five deaths that added to the national death toll in the past 30 days was a fatality that occurred days ago and had gone unreported, according to data analysed by HT

HT Image
HT Image
By, New Delhi

Nearly one out of every five deaths that added to the national death toll in the past 30 days was a fatality that occurred days ago and had gone unreported, according to data analysed by HT. In the past month, at least six states – Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Goa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh – have been steadily reconciling their death data and have added a total of 20,741 fatalities not logged earlier.

In Bihar, three out of every four deaths in the past month was added to the state’s tally in just one day -- on June 9. In Maharashtra, more than half the number of deaths reported in the last 30 days were old backlog statistics. In Uttarakhand, this proportion was 30%.

Such statistical correction not only pushed up the country’s death count in the past month, but also implied that the fatalities reported during the peak of the outbreak in India during April and May were under-reported.

On Saturday, for instance, a total of 3,302 daily deaths were added to the country’s tally. However, only 1,675 deaths actually occurred that day.

All figures are from HT’s dashboard of national Covid-19 statistics, which is updated with data released by the authorities of each state.

The remaining 1,627 were old deaths due to the disease that were added by states to their respective tallies – 1,607 deaths were added by Maharashtra, nine by Punjab and 11 by Uttar Pradesh. This means that 49% of all new deaths had taken place days before.

Similarly on Friday, 4,000 daily deaths were added to the country’s tally. But, on that day Maharashtra added a backlog of 2,213 deaths, Uttarakhand added 10 old fatalities and UP added four. This means that 56% were old.

On Thursday, this proportion was 45% of the 3,410 reported deaths that day – 1,522 by Maharashtra, one in Goa, 14 in Uttarakhand, three in Punjab and one in UP.

This reconciliation touched a peak on Wednesday, when the national death tally touched a record high of 6,141, according to HT’s dashboard. Of these, 71% were old deaths, with a majority (3,951) coming from Bihar’s reconciliation. Other major contributors were Maharashtra (400) and Uttarakhand (30).

For Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, the reconciliation process has been a near-daily occurrence over the past month. The western state has updated its tally 25 days in the last month, while the hill state has done so 27 times in the same period.

In absolute numbers, Maharashtra has added 15,756 old deaths to its tally in the past month – constituting 53.5% of all fatalities the state reported in this time period. Uttarakhand has reconciled 807 deaths in the same time period – constituting 30.1% of its fatalities.

In Punjab, the process is a little more complicated as while reconciliation is a near-daily occurrence, the state also reduces repeat deaths fairly frequently. UP, which has been updating its case as well as death count like Punjab, has added at least 78 old deaths to its tally in the past month. Goa has only done so on four days between June 7 and June 10, adding a total of 75 deaths (7.7% of fatalities in the past month).

The Union health ministry, in response to an article in an international magazine that claimed India has suffered perhaps five to seven times ‘excess deaths’ than the official number, on Saturday said that states and Union territories record Covid-19 deaths as per guidance issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It added what it labelled as “unsound analysis” of extrapolation of data “without any epidemiological evidence”.

States and UTs have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines, Centre said.

(With agency inputs)

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    Jamie Mullick works as a chief content producer at Hindustan Times. He uses data and graphics to tell his stories.

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