Drop in number of fatalities as civic bodies struggle to update data due to Covid-19 lockdown | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Drop in number of fatalities as civic bodies struggle to update data due to Covid-19 lockdown

Hindustan Times, Mumbai/Chandigarh/Bhopal/Jaipur | ByEeshanpriya M S, Vivek Gupta, Ranjan, Urvashi Dev Rawal | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi
May 10, 2020 10:48 AM IST

Municipal officials in many other cities Hindustan Times reporters got in touch with did not provide any data on the deaths citing lockdown restrictions.

Mumbai reported 17.93 per cent lesser deaths in April 2020, Chandigarh 15.5 per cent, Jaipur 73 per cent and Indore 78 per cent as compared to April last year, according to the registrars of deaths and births in these cities. April 2020 also recorded lesser deaths in comparison to the first three months of this year in these cities.

Officials of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) visit Dharavi slums during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, in Mumbai, on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)
Officials of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) visit Dharavi slums during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, in Mumbai, on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)

The municipal officials of these cities gave two explanations for the dip.

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First, in Mumbai and Chandigarh, the officials said that the lesser deaths recorded was because of fall in the number of fatal accidents and lesser natural deaths reported from major hospitals, which receive a large number of patients from adjoining districts and states.

In April 2020, Mumbai recorded 5,536 deaths, as compared 6,752 deaths in April 2019 and 6,740 in the same month in 2018. Officials said that some pending entries for April will be updated in May, which could reduce the difference between number of fatalities in April this year and previous years. In March 2020, there was dip of 22.28 per cent in deaths reported as compared to March 2019.

Chandigarh recorded 236 deaths in April this year as compared to 205 in April 2019. The number of deaths reported this year was slightly less than those reported in March, 2020, official data showed. Director health services, Dr G Dewan, said because of the Covid-19 the department was keeping a close watch on birth and death figures.

Second, in Jaipur and Indore, the officials admitted that their database may not represent complete records of deaths in the respective cities as records have not been maintained properly due to lockdown.

Jaipur, which has 56 Covid-19 deaths so far, has reported 858 total deaths in April, 2020 as compared to 3,088 in April, 2019. A Jaipur municipal corporation official said there is a delay in sending the death and birth records by different agencies as most offices were closed during lockdown.

In Indore, having 86 Covid-19-related deaths, recorded 399 deaths in entire city of 1.9 million this April as compared to 2,629 for the same months last year. “The figures reflect the online death certificates issued. Personnel engaged to record deaths have been deployed for Covid duties. We are in the process of updating the data,” said Indore chief medical officer Dr Praveen Jadia.

Municipal officials in many other cities Hindustan Times reporters got in touch with did not provide any data on the deaths citing lockdown restrictions. In places such as Lucknow and Kolkata, the municipal officials said no data for April was available as all offices were closed due to the lockdown.

“We will update the data for April when the offices open fully after the lockdown,” a Lucknow municipal corporation official, who was not willing to be quoted, said. Lucknow is a Covid hotspot.

Atin Ghosh, deputy mayor and member-mayor-in-council (health) of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, said, “No monthly data is available in public domain. We compile this data once a year and data for April (2020) will be available next year.”

Kolkata, a Covid-19 hotspot district, was among the districts in West Bengal, which the central team said was bad in maintaining data and enforcing the lockdown.

The chief registrar of births and deaths in Delhi said, “Forget 2020 data, we have not even been able to compile the annual births and deaths for the year 2019. This is because one of the five local bodies has not yet submitted their data. And the data provided by others has been returned to the concerned bodies because of inaccuracies in the cause of death.”

In Patna, 5,222 deaths have been recorded from January 1 till April 30, 2020, an increase of 294 deaths from the same period in 2019. One cannot say which reported higher deaths as the Patna municipal corporation failed to provide monthly death for 2020 data citing staff shortage. “Most of the employees are involved in the house to house Covid-19 survey and they are not available to compile the data,” said a PMC official, who was not willing to be named. Patna has reported 47 Covid-19 positive cases.

An official of Madhya Pradesh statistical department said due to lockdown many zonal offices were not working with full strength as the civic bodies employees are engaged in fight against coronavirus. A person at one of the graveyards in Indore said they have been instructed not to share any death related data with media.

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has not compiled the exact data with regard to number of deaths in the last two months due to lack of adequate staff on account of lockdown. GHMC statistical officer, S Srinivas Reddy, said that the number of deaths registered every month is around 3,000-3,500 and expected the deaths in month of April to be less.

“Generally, people from neighbouring districts come to hospitals in Hyderabad for treatment. So, the number of deaths in Hyderabad hospitals was higher in the past. During the lockdown period, since inter-district transport was banned, patients are being referred to the local hospitals in their respective districts. Naturally, the deaths registered in Hyderabad would have come down,” he said.

In Kolkata, the huge garbage dumping ground at Dhapa, located beside the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, is one of the designated spots for the last rites of Hindu Covid-19 patients. The other cremation ground is at Topsia in south-east Kolkata. For Muslims, the burial ground is at Bagmari in east Kolkata.

The government decided to earmark separate locations for the last rites of Covid-19 victims soon after public resistance stalled the cremation of Bengal’s first victim at the Nimtala Ghat crematorium on March 23. Since then, the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has alleged secret cremations by police although the government denied the claims. There have also been some incidents of people resisting cremation of Covid-19 patients. On April 24, a central team in a letter to chief secretary Rajiva Sinha raised the issue of large number of dead bodies lying on beds in Bangar hospital in Kolkata. After that, Sinha issued instructions that bodies should be removed from wards without any delay.

Officials in several states said that the drop in number of fatalities was due to reduced travelling and most people staying indoors, leading to greater attention to health and to co-morbidity. In Mumbai, health officials said there was 36 per cent decrease in the number of deaths due to co-morbidity in March and April 2020 such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and pneumonia, as compared to March and April in the previous three years. However, Chandigarh reported 32 per cent increase in deaths of the senior citizens during the lockdown period.

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