India’s death toll due to coronavirus doubles in just 15 days

New Delhi: India’s death toll due to coronavirus jumped from 5,815 on June 3 to 11,903 on June 17 – more than doubling in just 15 days, reported India Today on Thursday. Nearly 20 per cent of this jump was on Wednesday, after Maharashtra and Delhi added unreported deaths from previous days to their tally. This not only made India the country with the 8th highest number of Covid-19 deaths, but also spiked its case fatality rate from 2.9 per cent to 3.4 per cent.
Official death tolls have initially been lower in India. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths shows that India recorded seven fatalities in the first week of April, which jumped to 359 by June 17. The maximum average daily deaths from June 11-17 were reported from Maharashtra (154), Delhi (78), Gujarat (32) and Tamil Nadu (23), the states with also the highest number of cases in India.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported more than two-third of India’s daily death toll of 2,003. The daily rise in deaths was 8 times the previous day. The state reported 1,409 deaths on June 17, in which nearly 95 per cent was from the backlog. Most unreported deaths came from Mumbai, where almost 1,000 deaths were adjusted.
Delhi too has adjusted its data backlog on deaths. On Wednesday, Delhi’s daily death count was six times the previous day’s number. The Capital reported 437 deaths on June 17, which was almost 22 per cent of India’s death toll for the day.
The latest fiasco over death numbers in Maharashtra and Delhi shows that actual fatalities due to Covid-19 are likely to be higher than reported. Renowned virologist and former virology professor at Vellore’s Christian Medical College, Dr T Jacob John, has similar doubts.
“The Centre and states are in denial mode, saying the situation is under control. The numbers are increasing and they could be under-reported to hide the real scenario,” Dr John told India Today.
Questions have also been raised on the accuracy of Covid-19 deaths in Tamil Nadu. This state reported a total of 528 deaths, including 49 on Wednesday. Two other worst-hit states of Gujarat and Haryana are also showing moderate growth in death numbers.
Timothy Russell, a mathematical epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told nature magazine that calculating an accurate infection fatality rate is challenging in the middle of an outbreak because it relies on knowing the total number of people infected – not just those who are confirmed through testing.
In a pandemic situation, deaths are one of the measures of the efficiency of health facilities available to the public. The key question is if more than 66 per cent deaths in India are reported from Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu alone, which have better health infrastructure, then what will happen in states with poor facilities?