Non-governmental organisation Arappor Iyakkam in Chennai has alleged discrepancies in the state government’s figures on Covid-19 deaths in Tamil Nadu between April and May.

The organisation said it had collated and analysed data from six hospitals – Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai, Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital in Trichy, Vellore Medical College Hospital, Karur Medical College Hospital and Tiruppur Government Headquarters Hospital. The overall number of death certificates issued between April and May in these hospitals was 11,699.

The NGO reviewed mortality data from these hospitals in 2019 and 2020. The organisation also analysed data for daily deaths for males and females between January and May for 2019, 2020 and 2021. This was compared to the state government’s bulletin on Covid-19.

“The report finds that the likely underreporting of Covid deaths in these 6 hospitals is at least 8.4 to 9.8 times more than the declared Covid deaths in the media bulletin for the months of April and May 2021,” the NGO claimed in its report.

Between April and May, the NGO’s report showed that there were 3,152 deaths at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai but the state health department’s Covid-19 bulletin only recorded 172 deaths. In the absence of any “other factor”, the NGO has claimed many of the fatalities could be related to Covid-19 or its complications.

“The overall deaths in these 6 hospitals declared in the media bulletin for the months of April & May 2021 (as of 13/06/2021) is only 863,” the report noted. “Deaths that are due to Covid and its complications is likely to be 8.4 times to 9.8 times more than the number of deaths declared by the Department of Health and Welfare for these six hospitals.”

The report said that if the “underreporting factor” was to be applied to the six hospitals, then the total count of Covid-19 deaths in the state in April and May may be “between 1,08,721 and 1,26,841 against the reported number of 12,943”.

As of Wednesday morning, Tamil Nadu has 1,25,215 active Covid-19 cases, 2,22,3015 recoveries and 30,068 deaths.

The organisation urged the state government to address and acknowledge the underreporting of the fatalities and called for transparency in releasing death certificates, mortality data for hospital and home deaths for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“The current scenario will greatly affect those who are eligible for compensation as the state government has said that having Covid in cause of death is mandatory for claiming compensation,” the report said. “Therefore, unless this massive underreporting is corrected, thousands and thousands of families will stand ineligible even though their family member died due to Covid.”

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