Kerala adds 1,500 backlog Covid-19 deaths in November
Kerala, which has touted its low Covid-19 death rate as a measure of the quality of its health system and its ability to manage the pandemic, has added at least 1,500 backlog deaths thus far in November, almost 4% of the total of 38,353 deaths the state has seen thus far.
Even with the additions, the state’s case fatality rate of 0.82% trails the national rate of 1.4% – but the 0.82% marks an almost doubling of the case fatality rate over the past six months. In October, 70% of the deaths recorded in the state were backlog deaths.
The addition of the backlog has now taken the overall Covid-19 death toll in Kerala to 38,353. This pushes the state to second in terms of overall death numbers, edging out Karnataka, which has seen 38,185 deaths.
On Wednesday, the country reported 397 fatalities (according to HT’s dashboard) of which Kerala’s share was 308 – 35 daily deaths and 273 that were designated as “virus-induced deaths” as per the new guidelines of the Union health ministry. It also reported 4,280 fresh cases and currently has an active case load of 51,302; India reported 9,072 cases and an active load of 117.488 cases.
The state blames poor documentation and fresh Covid-19 death guidelines for the mounting numbers. The number is likely to go up further as 17,000 appeals for considering deaths as those caused by Covid-19 are pending with a committee that is overseeing norms for distributing compensation.
Strangely, even a month after state health minister Veena George admitted in the assembly that around 7,000 deaths had failed to find mention in the Covid-19 death list only half have been added. Some of the backlog deaths being added date back to the first half of 2020.
“From day one we have been following guidelines of Indian Council of Medical Research and there is no deliberate attempt to lessen numbers. Due to some technical glitches and other reasons some deaths failed to find in the list. We have already revised the list,” said Veena George.
Health secretary Rajan Khobragade also said that since the Centre amended its rules for declaring deaths the state has also reviewed its list.
Several other regions such as Maharashtra, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, have all issued such statistical corrections over the past few months to incorporate previously uncounted fatalities in their Covid-19 death tolls, particularly those that occurred during the country’s brutal second wave.
Public health experts and opposition parties have been alleging that the Kerala government has not been transparent with its data. “We are happy now the government conceded its mistakes. When we pointed out glares and lapses we were branded by the government. In initial days, the government was on an overdrive to show low deaths and laud its robust health system,” said health expert Dr SS Lal, who had a stint with the World Health Organisation. “The state was forced to correct its data once compensation was announced. The government should give real time data and share it with experts also,” said another public health expert Dr NM Arun.