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Tracking India’s coronavirus deaths — 24 of first 35 victims had no foreign travel history

An analysis by ThePrint finds that 77% of Covid-19 casualties in India had comorbidities, 69% were men and over a third had no reported travel or contact history. 

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New Delhi: Nearly 69 per cent, or 24, of the Covid-19 casualties in India were those who contracted the disease within the country and had no foreign travel history, ThePrint’s analysis of the first 35 deaths in India showed.

Of these, 18 cases across states like Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had no travel history or known contacts with Covid-19 patients. The other six had come in close contact with someone who had the infection, according to ThePrint’s analysis of government data and local media reports.

The Union health ministry hasn’t been officially putting out travel histories and other details of India’s coronavirus patients.

The remaining 11 had a travel history to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Italy among other countries, the reports showed.

ThePrint also found that as many as 24 of the 35 deceased, or 69 per cent, are men. This is starkly similar to Italy, where men have accounted for 71 per cent of the total deaths. In Spain too, twice as many men have died as compared to women.

While ten victims were in the age group of 40 to 60, sixteen were between 60 and 70 and eight over 70. The youngest casualty was aged 38 while the oldest was 85. These trends are in line with emerging research which shows that in older adults the disease takes a more severe form and presents a higher risk of death.

India has recorded over 1,500 coronavirus infection cases so far.

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Other findings

Researchers across the world have pointed out that patients with comorbidities — the presence of more than one health condition — are at higher risk of death. At least 27 of the 35 of those who died in India, or 77 per cent, were reported to have other health complications, apart from Covid-19, the analysis showed.

The most common of these comorbidities was diabetes and hypertension. 

Ventilators had been used for at least six of the 35 patients — however, details about the course of treatment for most patients are not available.

At least eight people were not identified as Covid-19 patients until after their deaths, despite having symptoms of the disease. This is because India is only testing those with known travel histories or contacts of those who were confirmed to have infection. 

There were significant delays in identifying these patients, especially those who approached private hospitals at first. This may have led to further spread of the disease. For example, a 65-year-old food vendor in Mumbai with Covid-19 delivered to a number of offices in the city before she was hospitalised.

In another case in Maharashtra, a woman’s family had already carried out her last rites before it became clear that she had died from the infection, leading authorities to conduct a frantic contract tracing exercise.

At least two people in Jammu and Kashmir and Telangana had contracted the disease from the now-controversial Tablighi Jamaat event held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin between 13 and 15 March. According to the Telangana chief minister’s office statement, six had died of Covid-19 in Telangana following the event. However, only one is reflected in the official death count released by the Union health ministry.

Kerala has the highest number of recorded cases (202), followed by Maharashtra where at least 198 have been confirmed to have the disease.

Here is timeline of all the reported Covid-19 deaths in India so far.

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13 March 

India reported the first death from the novel coronavirus. Samples from a 76-year-old man from Karnataka, who had died on 10 March, tested positive for Covid-19. The man was suffering from asthma and hypertension, and his death was attributed to comorbidities in the health ministry statement. The patient had returned from Saudi Arabia.

On the same day, a 68-year-old woman from west Delhi who had tested positive for Covid-19 died. The health ministry statement again attributed the death to comorbidities. The woman, a patient of diabetes and hypertension, had come in contact with her son who had travelled to Switzerland and Italy. He developed symptoms later.

At the time India had about 81 confirmed cases of infections. 

18 March

The third death from the virus was reported from Maharashtra. A 64-year-old man who had returned from Dubai became the first casualty from the state. He was suffering from multiple health issues, according to media reports. 

The health ministry stated that the patient had not disclosed his travel history and was being treated in a private hospital for five days before his death. 

19 March 

A 72-year-old man from Punjab with travel history to Germany via Italy passed away after having severe chest pain. He was suffering from diabetes and hypertension. Test results from his samples came positive for novel coronavirus after his death.

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21 March

As the number of cases surged to 341, two Covid-19 deaths were reported.  

A 38-year-old man from Bihar, who was hospitalised with a kidney ailment, died in Patna. This is the youngest reported death in India from the infection so far. The man had travelled to Qatar and died before the test reports confirming coronavirus infection came in.

In Maharashtra, a 63-year-old coronavirus patient died in a private hospital in Mumbai. According to the local health department, the patient had a chronic history of diabetes, high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease and he developed acute respiratory distress syndrome leading to death. 

There was no reported travel or contact history at the time of his death. 

22 March

A 67-year-old man became the first coronavirus victim in Gujarat. The man had not travelled to a foreign country in recent weeks, but had travelled to Delhi and Jaipur. He had been admitted to a private hospital on 17 March with several complications related to kidney and asthma. He tested positive for the coronavirus on 21 March, officials said. 

23 March

A 54-year-old man with no travel history died in West Bengal from a heart attack, two days after he was declared Covid-19 positive. A local doctor he had visited as well as the private hospital where he was admitted on 16 March did not raise alarm, since he had no travel history. He was tested positive on 21 March. 

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee erroneously referred to him as “the man who went to Italy” while announcing his death.

On the same day, a 65-year-old man who travelled from the UAE passed away in Maharashtra. According to local authorities, the man was hospitalised in a critical condition Monday with fever, cough and breathlessness. The victim also had complaints of high blood pressure coupled with diabetes.

Meanwhile, a 69-year-old Tibetan man, who had returned from the US, died from coronavirus in Himachal Pradesh. The man was undergoing treatment in Kangra district after he complained of respiratory issues. His swab samples confirmed that he was Covid-19 positive after his death.

With this the toll in India reached 10. The total number of confirmed cases at this point had climbed to 467.

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24 March

A 65-year old woman died in Maharashtra. She had visited at least two private hospitals, before her death at the NMMC Hospital in Mumbai. Her positive test reports arrived after her family had carried out her final rites. She had no known history of travel.

25 March

Tamil Nadu reported its first Covid-19 death with a 54-year-old man. The man did not have any travel history outside the state but had come in contact with a group of tourists from Thailand, two of whom were confirmed to have the infection.

He reportedly had a history of prolonged illness, with steroid dependent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and hypertension.

Madhya Pradesh recorded the first death of a coronavirus patient. A 65-year-old woman died hours after testing positive for the virus. Her condition was complicated due to diabetes. According to her son, the woman had not left her house in Ujjain for at least four months preceding her death, and had not been visited by anyone with travel history.

An 85-year-old woman, who had a travel history to UAE, died in Gujarat. The woman was put on a ventilator. Officials reportedly confirmed that the women had comorbid conditions including pulmonary fibrosis, hypertension and diabetes.

In Karnataka, a 75-year-old woman suffering from diabetes, chest pain and hip fracture died. She was tested positive for coronavirus after her death. She had a travel history to Saudi Arabia.

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26 March

Jammu and Kashmir recorded its first death, a 65-year-old man who succumbed at a hospital in Srinagar. He had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi’s Nizamuddin. Attended by people from Indonesia and Malaysia, the event has now set off clusters in at least six regions across the country. The J&K patient had a medical history of hypertension, obesity and diabetes. 

In Mumbai, a 65-year-old woman succumbed to the infection at the civic-run Kasturba Hospital. She was a dabba (food) vendor who catered to clients working in nearby corporate offices. She had been admitted on 23 March after complaining of breathlessness. She had also been suffering from diabetes and hypertension. A civic official said she had no history of even domestic travel. 

Gujarat reported its third Covid-19 death, a 70-year-old man with a travel history to Delhi. The patient is said to have had comorbid conditions and several complications.

The second death in Madhya Pradesh was also recorded on this day — a 65-year-old man in Indore. There are no reports of him having any travel history.

27 March

As the number of cases crossed 854 in India, Karnataka reported its third death — a 60-year-old who died at a hospital in Tumakuru. He too had no travel history to a foreign country but visited Delhi by train earlier this month.  

In Delhi, a 60-year-old Yemen national passed away at a private hospital. He came to India as a potential liver donor and collapsed in the hospital, where he had gone to conduct tests. He is said to have been suffering from comorbidities.

28 March

Covid-19 claimed its first victim in Kerala, a 69-year-old man with a travel history to Dubai. The man was also suffering from severe heart disease, hypertension and had earlier undergone a bypass surgery. He had been kept on a ventilator. 

In Telangana, a 74-year-old man succumbed to the infection 12 days after visiting the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi. He had approached a private hospital after developing a fever and respiratory illness, but was sent home after being given nebuliser. He was tested for Covid-19 only after his death.

In Gujarat, a 46-year-old Covid-19 patient, who had no travel history, succumbed to the infection. She was suffering from hypertension, diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis and had been put on a ventilator. At the time of her death, the officials were trying to find out if she had contracted the infection from a contact.

An 85-year-old retired urologist died in Mumbai days after contracting the infection from his grandson, who had returned from the UK. The doctor had also been suffering from diabetes, cardiac ailments, and had a pacemaker installed. 

Another death of an 80-year-old man was reported in the city on the same day. He had been suffering from hypertension and ischemic heart disease and had been put on ventilator support He tested positive a day after his death. He had no travel history or known contacts with the infections.

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29 March

In Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, a 47-year-old man, who had also been suffering from diabetes, died. At the time, it was suspected that the patients contracted the infection through local transmission.   

Jammu and Kashmir reported its second coronavirus death — a 52-year-old man who had no travel history or known infected contacts. He had also been suffering from a liver ailment. 

A 40-year-old woman, who did not have a history of travelling abroad, succumbed to the infection in Mumbai. At the time, health officials were investigating if she had come in contact with an infected person. She was also suffering from hypertension.  

In Punjab, a 62-year-old patient became the state’s second fatality. He had contracted the infection from the 70-year-old Nawashahr man, the first Covid-19 victim in Punjab who was believed to be a ‘super-spreader’. He was also a chronic diabetes patient. 

30 March

Pune reported its first coronavirus death. A 52-year-old patient, who had also been suffering from blood pressure and diabetes, died of multiple organ failure. He had been on ventilator support since his admission in Deenanath Hospital. The man had tested positive on 22 March. According to reports, the source of infection for patients in Pune who were found to be positive between 20 and 29 March cannot be traced to international travel or infected contacts. 

The infection claimed its second victim in West Bengal, a 44-year-old woman who had travel history to Chennai.

31 March

The infection claimed a second life in Kerala, of a 68-year-old man who had been put on ventilator support. The man had been suffering from prolonged thyroid issues. However, he did not have any travel history and the authorities have been unable to trace contacts from whom he could have contracted the illness. He had initially approached a health centre for treatment, whose staff are now under quarantine now. 

West Bengal reported its third death, a 48-year-old woman who did not have a travel history.

The death toll in Madhya Pradesh also surged to five after a 49-year-old woman succumbed to the infection. She had no travel history and had been suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.

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