Tamil Nadu under-reported COVID deaths by as many as 444 for the period from March 1 to June 10

Published : July 22, 2020 20:24 IST

At the Kasimedu fishing harbour, Chennai, on July 18, when the auction of fish resumed after a gap of 110 days owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

On July 22, the Tamil Nadu government admitted that it had undercounted as many as 444 deaths in the State during the COVID-19 outbreak since March, and added the deaths to the tally today. A medical committee set up by the Health Department, which conducted an internal audit, has arrived at the figure of 444. Several exposures by the media last month forced the government to set up the committee.

The discrepancy in the numbers put out by the Chennai Corporation, the Directorate of Medical Education, and the Directorate of Rural Health Services went unnoticed by the government because there was no audit at the Health Ministry level.

With the addition of these 444 deaths, the total number of COVID deaths in Tamil Nadu is 3,144, and the overall death rate is 1.68 per cent, much lower than the toll in many other States. On July 22, as many as 74 deaths were recorded. The total number of people infected rose to 1.86 lakh and the total number discharged from hospitals rose to 1.31 lakh. July 22 also saw a record number of new infections: 5,849. Of this, Chennai accounted for only 1,171, while the number of COVID positives reported from the districts is going up steadily every day.

A government release issued in Chennai today, instead of accepting the undercounting of deaths and fixing responsibility for it, took refuge under a technicality: “The committee recommended that an additional 444 deaths would also fall under the category of COVID death as per the ICMR guidelines though such cases medically considered died due to co-morbidity or other terminal illness.” It did not give the details of the deaths, as it does in the case of each of the COVID deaths, but lumped the 444 deaths together: “Death Case No. 2627 to 3070—as per the death reconciliation committee report.”

The addition of the 444 deaths to the deaths in July skews the numbers for July. And the count for this month stands at 1,500. Even if the 444 deaths are not taken into account in the July count, the number of deaths from July 1 to 22 (1,056) has exceeded the June count of 1,041.

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