With the additions, the death toll in the state jumped from 4,128 on Monday to 5,537 on Tuesday, including 81 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours. Mumbai’s toll rose to 3,167 on Tuesday from 2,250 on Monday, including 55 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The new numbers pushed the case fatality rate (CFR) to more than 5% for the city and the state from 3.7% and 3.8%, respectively, on Monday. It also means Maharashtra’s share in India’s mortality numbers would rise significantly from 40% to more than 50%.
Officials said the fatalities, some of them from as far back as March, were of people who had tested positive for the coronavirus but may have died due to other health complications like cardiac arrest or pneumonia and were not counted as Covid deaths.
After the data cleaning, it became clear that 862 deaths were from Mumbai— uncomfortably close to the 951 ‘missing’ deaths former BJP CM Devendra Fadnavis complained about on Monday—and the remaining 466 are from 24 districts. Thane reported the second highest deaths, 146, after Mumbai. Other hot spots like Jalgaon and Solapur, which already have high CFRs, reported an additional 34 and 51 deaths, respectively.
Uddhav vows transparency on deaths, Fadnavis seeks action
Reacting to the controversy, CM Thackeray said the state was fighting Covid with absolute honesty and it holds transparency sacred. “Data reconciliation and tally will be done every few weeks so as to ensure complete transparency. Earlier, the duplication of cases was carried out in similar fashion,” he said in a tweet Chief secretary Ajoy Mehta said the state is rolling out a new SOP: a weekly report of people who have tested positive and their status should be generated. If there are gaps, they can be rectified in that period itself.
Fadnavis said the finding vindicated his complaint. “The government should not ignore this episode of criminal negligence in the name of reconciliation of numbers… We demand strict action against those responsible,” he said.
There is no clarity on whether the BMC had not shared details of any of the 862 deaths or a few with the death review committee. A civic official said the deaths were not reviewed for several reasons, ranging from unavailability of full case details, missing treatment papers to categorisation of deaths as per the International Classification of Diseases. “The review committee includes doctors and deans who are also at the forefront of the battle. So time too was a constraint,” said the official.
“There were two reasons for undertaking this exercise-—one was to communicate to the staff to clean up their act and the other was to have a transparent system of data reporting in the public domain. We do not want to hide any data,” Mehta told TOI on Tuesday. The state government had launched the exhaustive data reconciliation exercise after the Centre pointed out discrepancies in the data uploaded from Maharashtra on the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) portal. “There were entries of people who had tested positive, but they were neither discharged nor were their deaths recorded; so the data needed to be cleaned up,” said a senior official.
As allegations of deliberate undercounting surfaced, state health officials said there was no room for conspiracy theories. “One must understand that all corporations are dealing with massive volumes of data. The volume of cases or deaths that we have seen in the past few months is what is usually seen in a year or years. As and when they are being reviewed by the death committee, they are being added to the portal,” said Dr Pradeep Awate, the state’s surveillance officer.
(With inputs by Clara Lewis)