New Delhi: India’s national capital has reported its Covid-19 fatalities by at least 2,500 fewer deaths since the onset of the pandemic, data accessed by ThePrint showed.
According to data collected from the municipal corporations in Delhi, which maintain the daily count of Covid fatalities, the national capital has recorded 15,161 deaths as of 20 April. However, the government’s health bulletin has pegged this figure at 12,638 — a difference of 2,523 fatalities (20 per cent) — in the same period.
Delhi is split into three municipal corporations — North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC).
A senior medical officer of the SDMC, who is involved in the calculation and tally of deaths from crematoriums, told ThePrint that the variation in numbers between the official death tally and from the crematoriums was too huge to be ignored.
However, he added, “There is a possibility that the number varies also because our data might also include some Covid deaths of patients from neighbouring places other than Delhi.”
ThePrint reached Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Delhi health services director general Nutan Mundeja and principal health secretary Vikram Dev Dutt via calls and texts for a comment. However, there was no response until the publishing of this report.
The data accessed by ThePrint showed that Delhi’s civic bodies, for instance, recorded 410 deaths Tuesday (20 April) as opposed to the government-reported 277. Similarly, they recorded 357 deaths Monday (19 April) as opposed to the stated 240.
The difference in reporting comes at a time when Delhi is witnessing a massive spike in its daily count of Covid deaths as well as fresh cases amid a surging wave across the country. On Tuesday, the city reported 277 Covid deaths and 28,395 cases (with a record positivity rate of nearly 33 per cent).
This fatality figure is twice the previous record toll in the city — 131 on 18 November 2020. Moreover, it’s also up multi-fold over the last three weeks — on 30 March, Delhi had reported four Covid deaths.
In the surging wave, the authorities at funeral sites around the capital have reported a steep rise in the number of Covid patients being brought for cremation or burial, ThePrint reported last week. During the city’s last Covid peak in November, Delhi witnessed 2,612 deaths (in the month).
Both suspected and confirmed Covid cases are cremated or buried at Covid crematoriums and burial grounds, in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Covid guidelines.
Covid crematoriums capacity enhanced
According to the data accessed by ThePrint, there are 21 crematoriums, burial grounds and cemeteries dedicated for Covid bodies in Delhi.
However, one more crematorium in Green Park has been allotted space for 12 Covid bodies (at a time), confirmed a senior Delhi government official who didn’t wish to be named.
Moreover, the capacities of the existing crematoriums have also been enhanced.
Late Tuesday, the capacity for conducting cremations for Covid deaths in NDMC and EDMC was enhanced. According to separate orders issued in this regard, a copy of each of which is with ThePrint, this was done due to the rise in Covid deaths during the latest wave in Delhi.
The NDMC order also said that “in view of the emergency situation and in public’s interest, the competent authority has approved the CNG furnaces at Nigam Bodh ghat may be allowed to be functional for 24 hours”.
Nigam Bodh is among the largest Covid crematoriums in the city, which receives bodies from some of the largest Covid hospitals in Delhi, including LNJP.
The capacity for three crematoriums for Covid bodies under SDMC was also enhanced Saturday, the government official quoted above said.
Mismatch in govt figures reported last year too
This isn’t the first time that discrepancies have emerged between the official government data and that of crematoriums in the national capital. The number of Covid deaths in Delhi has been under the scanner since May 2020.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.