NEW DELHI: The Health ministry on Tuesday said it would be "thoroughly unjustified" to claim that deaths due COVID-19 are being under-reported in the country.
Responding to a question, Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said media reports claiming under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the country is "mere conjecture".
He said that in the initial phase of the pandemic, the ministry had issued clear-cut guidelines in consultation with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and keeping in view the WHO guidelines on how to report deaths.
"We found in the initial phase of the pandemic that there were certain states which were not reporting COVID deaths of co-morbid patients as COVID deaths. They were reporting them as death having been caused by that co-morbid condition. So we clarified that so that there is no confusion and written guidelines were issued," he said.
Secondly, he said most of the deaths that have been reported from specific urban areas where even during normal times the death registration is very high.
"In Maharashtra the death registration in normal times (when COVID-19 was not there) is 93 per cent. In Tamil Nadu and Delhi, the death registration in normal times is 100 per cent. The national average of death registration is 80 per cent," he told reporters.
He further said that it was equally important to know what is the percentage of medically certified deaths to the total registered deaths.
"That is also an important aspect that we should be analysing before jumping to any conclusion. The national average of the medically certified deaths to the total registered deaths is 22 per cent whereas in Maharashtra it is 67 per cent, in Delhi it is 69 per cent and in Tamil Nadu it is a high of 85 per cent," he said.
"In such a scenario to say that deaths are not being reported is thoroughly unjustified," Bhushan said.
The death toll due to COVID-19 stood at 38,938 on Tuesday.