BHUBANESWAR: Even as the air is yet to be cleared on the actual Covid fatalities during both the waves of the pandemic in the State, Odisha has recorded over 4,000 deaths categorised as ‘other than Covid’ during this 18-month period.
Apart from 8,163 deaths due to Covid announced by the State government so far, 4,000 to 4,500 people who had Covid but succumbed to other comorbid conditions, have been reported from all 30 districts.
This huge number of deaths has put the Health and Family department in a catch-22 position at a time when the Orissa High Court has already cast doubt on the actual Covid fatality figures seeking a fresh affidavit next month.
Last year, the government had categorised the Covid deaths in two parts and was announcing both Covid and other than Covid deaths in separate columns in the dashboard. But it was stopped after declaring 53 deaths due to other comorbid conditions up to August, 2020.
“Though the deaths of Covid positive people due to comorbidities continued to rise over the time, the number was never made public. Their death certificates, however, mentioned the cause of death as per their comorbid condition,” said a source.
The health officials are in a state of dilemma after the Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Supreme Court that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has recommended payment of `50,000 each as ex gratia to the next kin of those who died of Covid-19. The financial aid, the Centre clarified, would be given, provided that the cause of death is certified as Covid-19.
While some health officials argued that the aid will not be applicable to those who died of comorbidities, health experts claimed those fatalities should be categorised as Covid deaths as the virus only aggravated their health condition leading to their deaths.
Noted microbiologist and former ICMR consultant Dr Tribhuban Mohan Mohapatra wondered when the audited data of Odisha mentioned deaths of a number of Covid positive people with comorbidities, why is the ‘other than Covid deaths’ not announced and acknowledged by the government.Besides, the Health department continues to announce the old death figures even as the State government had claimed that the death audit of backlog cases was complete by the end of August.
“This is also creating confusion. Though the number of new cases has declined to 500 to 600 a day, the State has been reporting five to seven deaths a day with a case fatality ratio of over one. Since the department claims the death figure is not of a particular day, one can not calculate the actual CFR,” Mohapatra pointed out.
The Odisha government that has been announcing Covid deaths in sub 20 range during its peak period suddenly started releasing audited death figures in July. It recorded the biggest single-day spike in deaths on July 21 this year when 69 people died of the virus.
The audited fatalities, however, do not include patients, who died due to co-morbid conditions, who died on the way to the hospital and those who died after the recovery period. “The actual number of Covid related deaths in the State will be much more than the official figure if all those deaths are taken into account,” the sources added.Officially, the State has so far reported 10,23,133 Covid cases of which 10,09,582 people have recovered. The active cases stood at 5,335.