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Maha Covid-19 toll shoots up to 5,537

By Surendra P Gangan and Eeshanpriya MS, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUN 17, 2020 01:16 AM IST

RMaharashtra on Tuesday saw the addition of 1,409 Covid-19 deaths to its toll, which includes the reconciliation of 1,328 past fatalities and 81 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 5,537, even as state authorities were expecting the virus curve to stabilise and the case fatality rate (CFR) to dip.

The addition led to a spike in the CFR to 4.8%, from 3.7% on Monday, against the national rate of 3.4%. The Opposition has demanded a high-level inquiry into the “hidden figures of deaths”, terming it a conspiracy. A total of 2,701 more infections were reported in the past 24 hours in the state, taking the Covid-19 case tally to 1,13,445, including Mumbai’s tally of 60,228. Mumbai saw 935 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Of the latest added deaths, 862 have been added in Mumbai alone, taking its total to 3,167. This led to controversy as the Opposition raised doubts over the sudden spurt in the death figures. Mumbai’s CFR went up to 5.2%, from 3.79%, as per figures from Monday.

There was some relief amid the gloom, as Mumbai on Tuesday reported less than 1,000 Covid-19 cases in a day for the first time this month with 935 cases.

The Opposition had on Monday alleged that Maharashtra was covering up death figures. Leader of the opposition Devendra Fadnavis wrote a letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday, claiming that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had allegedly not registered 950 deaths as Covid-19 casualties.

Fadnavis further claimed that BMC had declared 451 deaths caused by the disease as non-Covid ones. Of these 451 deaths, 356 were declared non-Covid ones, while the remaining were pending for scrutiny.

He had also claimed 500-odd deaths that took place in private hospitals due to Covid-19 were not referred.

The chief minister’s office, however, tweeted late on Tuesday, “Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had mandated exhaustive data reconciliation last week. On June 13, the state asked all municipal commissioners and collectors to check with all local labs and hospital on the same. The state is fighting Covid with absolute honesty and it holds transparency sacred. Data reconciliation and tally will be done every few weeks so as to ensure complete transparency. Earlier, the duplication of cases was carried out in a similar fashion. Earlier today, chief secretary Ajoy Mehta and health secretary Pradeep Vyas declared the reconciled figure of deaths.””

Bhushan Gagarani, principal secretary, Maharashtra government, said, “The figures of the deaths have risen suddenly owing to the reconciliation of figures. It is true that there was negligence to a certain extent at some level and it led to a mismatch in the figures. This has happened owing to a couple of reasons. Some private hospitals did not provide us information in time, while in some government hospitals, the records about the deaths were not kept properly. In some cases, the death certificates had the mention of Covid infection as cause of fatality, but in hospital records, the entry was missing. When we realised the lapses we, last week, asked all municipal corporations and district collectors to reconcile the data on an urgent basis.”

Gagarani also admitted that the data was not being fed as per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, leading to a mismatch in number of deaths.

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant tweeted, “Reconciliation process had started earlier. We should welcome this stand of the state government to correct data. Fadnavisji who sensationalised this, has sources yet working for him in the govt. Today’s declaration was part of the ongoing process, which will happen every month.”

He further tweeted, “This letter Principal Secretary Health to all Collectors & Commissioner of Municipal Corporations dated 11th June citing directions of CS to reconcile data of #Covid_19 deaths before 15th June at 5 pm. It clearly suggests that LOP just tried to peep into a legitimate process.” Attached to this tweet is a letter dated June 11 signed by Principal Secretary of the Heath department, Pradeep Vyas, directing all municipal commissioners and district collectors to reconcile data of number of deaths

A senior BMC official said “These are mostly deaths from March and April. We have been cleaning up data for the last 15 days as in several hospitals, these had not been reported as per norms. We want to be completely transparent as nothing can be achieved by hiding figures.”

The BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal sent a report to the government on Monday, revising the death figures.

Fadnavis on Tuesday demanded to know what action will be taken by the state government, over these figures being hidden by the audit committee. He tweeted on Tuesday, “ICMR and World Health Organisation have clear guidelines on recording Covid-19 deaths, despite which the state government appointed a committee for the audit of the deaths. Was this committee to reduce the fatalities or to hide them? It is my sincere request to the state government that please don’t ignore this entire episode of criminal negligence in the name of reconciliation of numbers. These figures were suppressed for past three months. We demand strict action against all those who are responsible for this.”

The recovery rate of the state however improved to 50.99% after the number of patients discharged from hospitals rose to 57,851.At present 5.86,686 people are under home quarantine, while 27,242 are in institutional quarantine facilities across the state.

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