COVID-19 in Telangana: 50 per cent of deaths not being reported due to stigma

Deccan Chronicle.  | Kaniza Garari

Nation, Current Affairs

Suspected, non-tested and negative report-based deaths are not being registered by the government

Telangana's COVID-19 tangle. (PTI)

Hyderabad: COVID-19 deaths are estimated to be 50 per cent higher than the reported cases in the state’s medical bulletin.

Suspected, non-tested and negative report-based deaths are not being registered by the government as there is no proof of the COVID-19 test results and families are unwilling to have the name of the disease on the death certificate.

Suspected cases are those who come with complaints of severe breathlessness, oxygen levels less than 50 per cent and CT scan reports showing high viral load in the lungs but die suddenly without testing done.

The second category is of sudden deaths at home or on the way to the hospital without symptoms and their samples are not being taken for testing.

The third category is of people who have tested negative for COVID-19. It has been found that some people are being tested early that is within three days of developing symptoms and do not have enough viral load in the body. However, they develop complications, are hospitalised and die. These are often found positive from the samples are taken after their deaths. Often, due to the death and late arrival of test results, families do not want it to be registered and it is being alleged that the government too does not want to show these cases in their data.

A senior doctor, on condition of anonymity, explained, “We are seeing patients whose CT scans show lungs filled with virus (depicted as V) but death certificates do not name COVID- 19 as the cause of death. Other cases are those of patients undergoing treatment in hospitals, developing complications and being put on ventilator support yet the death is not recorded as caused by COVID-19. These practices is not reflecting the real numbers of dead. Fatality rate and under-reporting are rampant, so the real picture of the impact of the disease is not being shown.”

Experts state that if they take 1000 negative samples and track those cases there will be 50 per cent COVID-19-based mortality as many of them never made it to hospital and those who made it do not want it registered. This has led to the conclusion that the numbers are not the real-time numbers.

Those operating hearse services for the dead state that people are very sentimental and do not want the name COVID-19 as the cause of death. A non-government organisation operating these services said, “People want their dead to be given due burial or cremation. If COVID-19 is declared, then the guidelines do not allow family members to come forward for rituals. There are municipal workers and police involved and many of them do not want that. With dead bodies sanitised and in plastic bags, family members wearing personal protection equipment want their dead to be respected in their final journey and rituals followed. Due to this, the disease is not declared but all the precautions, limited numbers of near and dear ones and other basic protocols are followed.”

This sentiment has allegedly helped the government too as there is a committee scrutinising the death reports before declaring them as COVID-19 deaths. They are now not considering these cases.

Presently, the medical bulletin has consistently highlighted 54 per cent deaths due to co-morbid conditions of diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure and other multi-organ failures as the prime cause of death other than the infection by the virus.

The fact that the virus triggers havoc in the body is not being understood by common people and that is taken advantage of, allowing for the projecting a low fatality rate of 0.77 per cent in the state and 1.99 per cent in the country.

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