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India’s Covid fatality rate goes up as 2,003 deaths get added in a day following audit

Not all of the 2,003 deaths, which accounted for India's highest daily spike Wednesday, occurred in the past 24 days, but were retrospectively added.

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New Delhi: The addition of over 2,003 deaths in one day has sharply increased India’s Covid-19 fatality rate to 3.36 per cent from 2.8 per cent on 3 June.

This is still lower than the global Covid-19 death rate of over 5 per cent, but as more and more states reconcile death figures retrospectively, some with the help of audit committees, the percentage is expected to keep rising in the coming days.

The number of deaths as a percentage of closed cases — which includes cases that have either recovered or succumbed to the disease — is even higher at 5.9 per cent.

As of Wednesday morning, India registered 1,98,837 closed cases — 11,903 deaths and 1,86,934 recoveries — according to the Union health ministry.

Based on these numbers, the recovery rate also shoots up dramatically to 94 per cent if calculated on closed cases. The government’s current figure stands at 52.8 per cent, calculated on the total reported cases.

The states that account for most of India’s 2,003 deaths are Maharashtra (1,409),
Delhi (437), Tamil Nadu (49) and Haryana (18).

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Changing death rates

Retrospective reconciliation of deaths figures is not unique to India. Many other countries have done it too. Italy revised its Covid death toll in Bergamo, its worst-hit city, by over 2,000 post facto. Spain ended up reducing its count as did the US state of Colorado.

What led to the sharp spurt in deaths in just a day, officials said, was the inclusion of earlier unreported deaths, mostly in Maharashtra and Delhi. The officials added the spurt did not mean there had been an over 400 per cent jump in the deaths occurring in one day.

On Tuesday, the number of deaths had gone up by 470.

Maharashtra, for example, said just 81 of the 1,409 deaths reported Wednesday occurred in the past 24 hours. The remaining 1,328 deaths were added after an audit that determined deaths that had happened earlier were due to Covid.

The discrepancy had surfaced while an exercise was on to match the state data with that of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), officials said. There will likely be more of such updates in the state in the coming days.

Delhi, which reported 93 deaths Tuesday, saw its total rise from 1,400 to 1,837 Wednesday.

“This cumulative figure includes all pending deaths reported to and audited by Death Audit Committee,” said the state government bulletin for the day.

Tamil Nadu had stumbled upon “missing deaths” last week, after which it replaced health secretary Beela Rajesh with J. Radhakrishnan. Over the last two days, it has been reporting more than 40 deaths as compared to earlier, when the number would be usually below 20.

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Recovery rate calculation

According to the central government, the recovery rate currently stands at 52.8 per cent. This is calculated by taking into account only the number of recovered and discharged cases and dividing it by the total number of cases reported, including the active ones.

Experts, however, pointed out that the recovery rate should ideally be calculated on the number of closed cases rather than the total number.

If done so, the recovery rate climbs significantly higher to 94 per cent.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the health ministry said as many as 6,922 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours, taking the total recoveries to 1,86,934 patients. It added that as many as 1,55,227 cases are currently active and under medical supervision.

The number of government labs have also been increased to 674 and private labs are up to 250 (total 924 labs). These labs have tested 1,63,187 samples in the past 24 hours while the total number of samples tested so far is 60,84,256, the ministry said.

India ranks fourth in the world for highest number of coronavirus cases reported.

Also read: ‘Coincidental, not causal’: Experts say Delhi’s Covid surge and peak summer are not linked


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