NEW DELHI: Close to 20% of all official deaths reported in India due to Covid-19, occurred over the last four weeks. Within the same time span, fresh Covid cases shot up a gargantuan 58,47,932. It works out to over 32% of the 1.80 crore reported in the country thus far.
The official tally of 38,719 Covid deaths in April so far out of 2,01,187 total fatalities due to the contagious disease in the country may, however, be because of gross undercounting as is evident from the civic death records and grisly visuals from overwhelmed crematoriums across cities and towns.
Experts concur. They point out that while an average of 28,000 deaths are reported in India every day, crematoriums in cities would not be overflowing if the Covid fatality is just 2,000-3,000 a day, as is being counted officially as of now.
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Epidemiologist Jammi N Rao pointed out that the official toll on April 25 was about 2,850. “So assuming all other deaths were constant, the net addition due to Covid amounted to an extra 10% of the baseline,” he said.
“Would that excess have resulted in the scale and magnitude of the chaotic scenes we witnessed with cremation grounds working round the clock, queues of bodies waiting for hours and hours to be cremated, the shortage of firewood and so on? I think that is hardly likely.”
Public health researcher Oommen John, too, said that the number of reported deaths does not reflect the actual number of people who are in prolonged hypoxia (acute breathlessness), which is incompatible to survival.
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“This is a mystery and would warrant close attention.” What is alarming is the rapid increase in cases despite local restrictions. India, for instance, was reporting less than 75,000 daily cases in the beginning of the month but reached the 1 lakh mark, higher than the peak in September last within a week, which rose to over 2 lakh cases within another week.
‘Second wave has engulfed India’s towns & villages too’
It took just six more days for the country to cross 3 lakh cases, the highest by any country globally since the beginning of the pandemic, and the case trajectory has continued to grow northwards.
Some biostatisticians, including Bhramar Mukherjee from the Michigan University in the US, have predicted that India’s infection curve could peak in mid-May with 8-10 lakh daily cases after which there could be a swift decline. Those watching the pandemic management in India closely, however, differ slightly.
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“In my understanding, the official tally of daily Covid-19 cases may not go beyond 5 lakh cases per day as case is a function of tests conducted and there has not been significant rise in daily tests despite such an aggressive rise of the pandemic,” said a WHO India official, adding that the actual number of cases and deaths may be far higher.
“The worst part is that the second wave has engulfed metros, tier 2 and 3 towns and even rural areas altogether,” he said.