How the numbers don’t add up is revealed from a comparison between 2019 and 2020 data
Officially, the number of the dead in Telangana due to the pandemic on May 13, 2021, is 2,867 persons or an average of seven persons per day from the first reported death on March 28, 2020. But an analysis of the data in the same health bulletin reveals that the number of dead due to comorbidities is 3,603. Put together the number of dead due to COVID is 6,470 or 15 persons per day, way higher than the official figure in the media bulletin.
The ICD-10 mortality code recommended by World Health Organisation specifies that death after COVID positive test with conditions like heart disease, asthma, COPD, and Type-2 diabetes be recorded as underlying cause of death (UCOD).
“Everyday, they have been bringing 20-30 bodies to burn and the smell pervades the area. Over the last two days, the number has declined to five per day and we are able to breathe normally,” says Srinivasulu Reddy, a resident of Rayasree Residency that overlooks the ESI Erragadda crematorium, the designated funeral ground for Hindus.
How the numbers of COVID deaths do not add up is also revealed from a comparison between 2019 and 2020 data. The number of death certificates issued in July 2020 was nearly thrice the number issued in July 2019. The number of deaths in hospitals in July 2020 were nearly twice the number reported in July 2019, reveals a Right to Information application filed with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Between January and November 2019, 48,275 death certificates were issued. In the same period of 2020, a total of 58,706.
Contrary to the massive spike in deaths recorded by GHMC, according to the Telangana Health Department statistics, the number of deaths due to COVID were 179 in July, 263 in August, and the highest 306 in September. All deaths within the civic limits are recorded by the GHMC, which logs the deaths based on medical information and issues a primary document for cremation and burial purposes.
Later, the civic administration issues a death certificate to the next of kin based on an application followed by a verification process.
According to the information furnished by the GHMC, 9,578 death certificates were issued in July, which is an average of 319 certificates a day. A total of 1,957 deaths occurred in hospitals in July 2020, which averages 65 deaths per day.
The number of deaths recorded in that month were way above the 1,313 deaths in hospitals averaging 43.7 per month and 3,802 death certificates issued in July of 2019 averaging 123.7. Not surprisingly, the data shows a surge in the number of deaths in hospitals as well as death certificates issued from April peaking in July and then dipping back by November. The rise and fall in the number match that of cases and deaths caused by COVID but by a wide margin.
Incidentally, only 1,000 deaths occurred in hospitals in city in April 2020 when the lockdown was imposed like a security dragnet. Worldwide, there has been a similar mismatch between recorded deaths and deaths caused by SARS-CoV2 infection and is being tracked by multiple agencies.