BENGALURU, Karnataka — The Karnataka government run by the Bharatiya Janata Party has been adding Covid-19 deaths that occurred in March and April to the daily death toll bulletins of May and June, revealing that thousands of fatalities went unreported during the deadly secondly wave.
For instance, a 71-year-old male died of Covid-19 on 29 March in Bengaluru, but his death appeared in the daily health bulletin, published by the National Health Mission under the Karnataka’s Department of Health and Family Welfare Services, on 7 June.
A study of the daily health bulletins reveals that 4,675 cases of Covid-19 deaths from March and April have been added to the death toll in May and June, so far, a maximum of 257 past cases in one day — on 30 May — and an average of 110 such cases every day since 17 May.
This addition of previously unreported cases, called “reconciliation” deaths by the Karnataka government, raises questions of why the state government was unaware of over 4,500 Covid-19 deaths during the second wave, or concealed them from the public, altering considerably the scale of the tragedy that was unfolding.
India Ahead on 30 April had reported that the Covid-19 death being reported by the state government in its daily health bulletin was less than the data on the number of bodies being cremated, kept by Bengaluru’s Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru’s municipal corporation.
The following data shows that daily reported Covid-19 deaths between 29 May and 7 June, as per the daily health bulletin, and the cases from March and April added on those days.
Officials say that thousands of cases were unreported in March and April, the peak of the second wave, due to poor communication between officials at various levels in government.
Karnataka’s Deputy Chief Minister Ashwathnarayan CN said, “Many times, there will be communication gaps between district administration and remote places. Let me look into the data being given. This is probably because of a delay in communication between various levels.”
Trilok Chandra, Commissioner for the Health Ministry, said that private hospitals had not submitted their death data.
“The private hospitals had not submitted their death reports on time. That’s why the backlog. But yes, adding the backlog deaths to the daily count is a wrong practice. We will amend that and give a separate count on the reconciled data,” he said.
Other states including Maharashtra, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu, are also accounting for previously unreported deaths, but these states are adding the backlog figures to the cumulative death – the total number of deaths that have occurred in the state since March 2020.
In Karnataka, however, the previously unreported deaths are being added to the daily death count, which is producing an artificially skewed death rate i.e. the numbers of deaths against the total number of cases in a week.
The death rate for Karnataka was 2.62% from 30 May to June 6, but 7.71% for Bengaluru in the same period, as calculated by India Ahead.
While the average deaths in Bengaluru every day stands at 100 since 17 May, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta, in an interview on 4 June, said that the actual number of deaths in the city had been reduced to single digits.
“Most of the health bulletin deaths are the unfortunate deaths that have occurred one month back or more,” said Gupta. “There is an issue of reporting that is happening now. The rate also is mentioned in the bulletin but it is of the death that occurred a few months back.”