The Curious Case of Delhi’s Covid-19 Deaths: Are the Numbers Being Under-Reported or Are They Delayed?


The Curious Case of Delhi’s Covid-19 Deaths: Are the Numbers Being Under-Reported or Are They Delayed?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Every time you switch on your television, news channels are assiduously reporting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This includes the numbers of those who have recovered and the fatalities. But how reliable are these numbers?

The Delhi government had initially claimed that only 68 people in the capital had died so far due to Covid-19. However, according to a Dainik Bhaskar report, over 300 cremations and burials had been performed in the city in accordance with the protocol specifically issued by the government for handling dead bodies of Covid-19 patients. This indicated that by Saturday, May 9, the actual death toll from coronavirus cases was in fact at a shocking 314, more than four times the government’s claim.

Highlighting the dubious under-reporting of the Covid-19 related deaths, the Hindi daily further explained that 225 bodies alone had been cremated at Nigambodh Ghat (153) and Punjabi Bagh (72) crematoriums. The ITO graveyard for Muslims accounted for 89 burials out of the 314 cases.

When Dainik Bhaskar reached out to Haji Faiyazuddin, secretary of ITO graveyard’s management committee, the team was told that three of the 89 burials had taken place on Saturday itself. On speaking with Jaiprakash JP, the chairman of the Standing Committee of North Delhi municipal corporation, the newspaper was informed that the documents of the 153 cremations performed at the Nigambodh Ghat were available with the civic body. He also accused the Delhi Government of hiding the real death count in the city. Bhupendra Gupta, the Standing Committee chairperson of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, echoed this, demanding that the government bring to the public’s notice the magnitude of the pandemic at hand.

However, Arvind Kejriwal acknowledged this under-reporting by claiming that the Death Audit Committee was not being provided with timely “death summaries” of the deceased Covid-19 patients which resulted in “incorrect and delayed reports being submitted.”

While the health ministry went on to revise Delhi’s death toll from 68 to 86, the faulty reporting has not left citizens at ease.

Could the altered death numbers be a quick means to put lockdown relaxations into place to revive the shuddering economy?

What the people really expect by the end of the day is just the mere truth.

At present, with the addition of another 20 Covid-19 deaths in Delhi, the capital’s death toll is now at 106 as per reports.