Bihar revises COVID-19 toll, confirms more than 9,000 deaths
Bihar on Wednesday added 3,951 backlog fatalities to its coronavirus death toll, taking the total number of deaths in the state to 9,429 since the pandemic began early last year. Just until Tuesday, the officially reported number of deaths was less than 5,500. The Patna High Court had last month flagged irregularities in the data and asked the state government to conduct an audit.
Several districts saw a rise of over 200% in deaths
As per the revised figures, the most number of deaths was reported from the state capital Patna as its toll rose to 2,303, according to The Times of India. That district is followed by Muzaffarpur (609 deaths), Nalanda (463), Begusarai (454), Purvi Champaran (425), Darbhanga (342) and Madhubani (317). Four of the 38 total districts saw a rise of over 200% in the toll.
Why were these deaths missed earlier?
Pratyaya Amrit, the Additional Chief Secretary (Health), said most of the additional fatalities occurred during the second wave of the pandemic. These deaths were reported at private hospitals in the state, under home-isolation, and due to post-coronavirus complications, Amrit said, according to Hindustan Times. "These deaths had remained unaccounted earlier," he was quoted as saying by the publication.
Data verified with crematoriums, municipal corporation: Official
Amrit said an assessment of the unreported deaths was carried out in all districts of Bihar by setting up a team at medical colleges and hospitals. He warned disciplinary action would be taken against officials for failing to register these deaths on time. The new figures were verified from various sources, including crematoriums and the municipal body, Patna District Magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh reportedly said.
Bihar now 12th among states with highest COVID-19 deaths
Bihar's COVID-19 toll has risen by nearly 73% with this revision. The state has jumped from the 17th to 12th position on the table of states and Union Territories with the most number of coronavirus-linked fatalities. The numbers also imply that while 1,600 people died of COVID-19 in Bihar until this March, the figure rose by more than 7,000 between April and June 7.
Why was the revision so important?
Amrit said the government wants to be "absolutely transparent" about COVID-19 deaths in the state so that bereaved families get the due financial assistance. Bihar gives out a Rs. 4 lakh compensation to the kin of those who died of the coronavirus. So far, ex-gratia funds for 3,737 COVID-19 victims have been released by the state government, the official said.
'Government is exposed': Opposition slams CM Kumar's administration
Sahajanand Prasad Singh of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has praised the government's efforts toward correcting its data. The Opposition, however, criticized CM Nitish Kumar-led government for under-reporting the fatalities earlier. "The state government has been exposed. We have been proven right that there was an under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the state (sic)," said Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwary.
Patna HC had ordered an audit last month
On May 17, the Patna High Court had flagged irregularities in the number of COVID-19 deaths reported in Buxar district of Bihar. A division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar had warned the removal of public representatives for failing to discharge their duties, and ordered the state government to verify statistics from all sources before submitting them in the court.