Kerala yet to update official Covid death toll

Fatalities could be up to 50k if fresh appeals & around 7k deaths previously omitted from list are included, say activists

Published: 22nd October 2021 06:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2021 06:16 AM   |  A+A-

Coronavirus death, covid death, cremation

Representational Image. (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Almost two weeks have passed since Health Minister Veena George announced the decision to address concerns regarding the under-reporting of Covid-related deaths, but the health department is yet to update the state’s official toll. With the inclusion of around 7,000 deaths previously excluded from the official tally, the total number of pandemic-related fatalities in the state would have jumped to more than 34,000.

However, the Covid death toll as per official records stood at just 27,202 on Thursday, with the addition of 118 deaths on the day.

According to the office of the health minister, there is no deliberate delay in updating the statistics. “The figure of 7,000 is an approximate estimate. The process of updating the list is under way in all districts. The revision will reflect in the official list once the district lists get the nod from the health department,” said a senior official.

Meanwhile, the influx of fresh appeals to reconsider the deaths declared as non-Covid deaths to Covid deaths has turned out to be higher than what the authorities had estimated. As on Thursday, 10,978 such appeals have been made in the online portal, which the government had introduced from October 10 to help families avail compensation. As per the directions issued by the department, all appeals have to be processed within 30 days.

However, health activists are not optimistic about the efforts. “The addition of previously excluded deaths and fresh appeals would take the toll to around 50,000. We had estimated early on that the toll would be around that number.

However, the delay shows that the government is unlikely to publish the new additions in the total tally. Under- reporting of deaths is a shame for the state,” said public health activist Dr N M Arun, who championed the demand for more transparent reporting of Covid deaths in the state. According to him, only a few deaths that happened in the previous year were included in the list despite the government’s assurances of course correction.

The health department, however, has refuted the allegations. The exclusion of around 7,000 deaths could be due to lack of supporting documents, said a health official.

“These deaths happened during the 14 months between March 2020 (when the first Covid death happened in the state) and June 2021 (when the department introduced a better reporting system). District collectors have been asked to submit details of deaths previously omitted from the list.

The process is likely to take one more week,” said the officer. He said the exclusion could be due to lack of clarity in the medical bulletin of the deceased person or problems in uploading the details. “Appeals based on the fresh guidelines of the ICMR need not be confused with the previous omissions,” he said. Besides its epidemiological significance, the inclusion of all Covid deaths in the official list became even more important after the Supreme Court directed compensation for the kin of the deceased. The state government has also announced financial assistance to the families.

27,202 Covid deaths in state as per official record

~7,000 deaths omitted

10,978 new appeals for inclusion in Covid death list

631 appeals processed so far


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