BENGALURU: On June 8, Karnataka revised its testing protocol and removed one crucial testing category that was in place earlier - testing suspected COVID-19 deaths who had ILI/SARI symptoms within six hours of their demise.
Experts feel that this could lead to under-reporting of deaths caused by coronavirus, thereby showing a better mortality rate to the public. Deaths have off-lately been a cause of concern for the state government with COVID-19 deaths being reported every other day across various districts.
Sources said that the decision to drop this category was not recommended to the government by the technical advisory committee. What follows after a suspected death turns out to be positive is, contact
tracing of primary and secondary contacts, testing and quarantining them.
However, when the death is not considered a COVID-19 one, the above activities will not follow, leaving room for more undetected cases, sources said, adding that this category should not have been deleted.
A source from the health department said that there might be slight under-reporting with removal of this category but even ICMR testing protocol does not include testing suspected deaths. Karnataka was doing it on its volition earlier until it decided to drop it.
There have been cases in Karnataka's health bulletins, where a person who was tested after they died, turned out to be positive for coronavirus.
Dr John Jacob, a virologist at Christian Medical College, Vellore said,'' The government is embarrassed and has hence removed the death category. This will lead to under reporting of COVID-19 deaths and
will not work in the long run. It is a sign of giving up the battle. If you do not want to know about a death, it is because you suspect it might be COVID-19 but want to show good news. We will not gain anything by under-reporting and do not need to keep changing the testing protocol."
Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey said, "Yesterday we had a video conference with Government of India and Ministry of Health where they said we should not draw swab from dead persons. Based on that we removed that category, although until now we have been testing suspected deceased persons. We have written to them again, to clarify on the issue."