The Bihar Health Department has set up a three-tier committee to compile, verify and update the recording and reporting of Covid-related deaths during the second wave of infections in the state.
A letter to this effect has been issued by Principal Secretary (Health) Pratyay Amit to all district magistrates, civil surgeons and chiefs of medical colleges. Local administrative and medical officials have been instructed to double-check Covid-related deaths reported in the second wave.
Formation of the committee comes two days after the Patna High Court expressed its displeasure over the existing system, which it slammed as “opaque”. The court said the state’s reluctance to publish the actual number of Covid-related deaths was uncalled for and not protected by law.
“… issue is whether more than ten crore people of the state of Bihar have a right to know… the number of deaths that occurred in Bihar during the time of COVID-19,” an irked High Court said.
The High Court’s orders came after an NDTV report flagged data that said nearly 75,000 people had died of unexplained causes in Bihar in the first five months of the year.
Around 1.3 lakh deaths were reported in Bihar between January and May of 2019. For the same period this year, that figure is almost 2.2 lakh. Over half of that increase was reported in May.
Bihar, officially, reported only 7,717 Covid-related deaths for the January-May period this year; this was after an initial revision added 3,951 deaths – which have not been confirmed as being this year.
Undercounting of Covid deaths has been flagged in several states, as India struggles to come to grips with the true scale of the devastation wrought by the second wave.
Data analysed by NDTV has shown 4.8 lakh unexplained excess deaths in just five states – Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Delhi.
Maharashtra has also revised its deaths statistics; updated data from just 12 days resulted in its overall figures increasing by nearly 9,000.
Faced with the data on unexplained deaths, the centre on Sunday told the Supreme Court that regardless of where they might take place, all coronavirus deaths, should be certified as such.
Thus far, only in-hospital deaths were being certified as ‘Covid deaths’; those that took place at home or even in hospital parking lots were being ignored.
As of Monday, India has officially recorded 3,88,135 Covid-related deaths. Maharashtra alone has recorded, officially, nearly 1.18 lakh, with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu logging over 30,000 each.
Bihar has reported over 9,500 Covid-related deaths so far.