COVID Death Toll 8 Times More Than Tamil Nadu Admitted: Report 

Chennai NGO Arappor Iyakkam has revealed that there may be massive underreporting of COVID deaths in Tamil Nadu.

4 min read
A recent report published by a Chennai based NGO, Arappor Iyakkam, has revealed that there may be massive underreporting of deaths caused by the coronavirus in Tamil Nadu.

A recent report published by a Chennai based NGO, Arappor Iyakkam, has revealed that there may be massive underreporting of deaths caused by the coronavirus in Tamil Nadu.

In April and May 2021, as per the state’s health bulletin, six government hospitals in the state have reported only 863 COVID deaths. However, the actual number of COVID deaths is 13.6 times more, the NGO has found.

The NGO through its analysis has found that there was a total of 11,699 deaths at six hospitals in Tamil Nadu during the same period. As many as 3,152 deaths were in Madurai, 3,464 in Coimbatore, 1,806 in Tiruchi, 1,416 in Vellore, 960 in Karur, and 907 in Tiruppur.


How Did the NGO Find This?

The NGO came to this conclusion after analysing death data at six hospitals – Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital, Tiruchi, Vellore Medical College Hospital, Karur Medical College Hospital and Tirupur Government Headquarters Hospital.

The analysis was carried out by comparing death certificate data released by the state on its portal, with the COVID deaths declared by the hospitals in the state bulletin.

“Data for the number of death certificates issued for men and women were collected for each day from January to May for each of these hospitals from 2019, 2020 and 2021. They were then compared with the deaths declared in the daily bulletins released by the state’s Health department,” the report read.

“Analysis of death data of six hospitals that is available online revealed that the total number of deaths for which death certificates has been issued in the months of April and May is 4,437 and 3,261 for 2019 and 2020, respectively. This number, however, has drastically increased to 11, 699 in April and May this year. Hence there has been an increase of 7, 262 deaths in the months of April and May 2021, compared to that of 2019. When compared to 2020, the increase in deaths stands at 8,438.”
NGO Arappor Iyakkam’ s Report

Now in the absence of any other major factors, the NGO says it is likely the increase in deaths happened due to Covid-19 and its complications.

Who Under Reported Deaths the Most?

According to the report, there were close to 2,000 deaths at the six hospitals from January to March, this year. And the number was the same from April to May in the previous years. However, it spiked to 3,009 in April 2021 and 8,690 in May 2021.

“Looking at the hospital wise underreporting, it can be seen that most hospitals have underreported deaths between 6 to 12 times. Vellore medical college hospital seems to be the lowest in underreporting, with its deaths being 6.3 to 8 times more than the real numbers during April and May 2021, the report read.

The report suggested that there is gross underreporting of deaths at Tiruchi government hospital. The mortality at this hospital is 32.8 times more than the reported COVID deaths in the month of April and May.

While Tiruppur government hospital declared zero COVID deaths in the health bulletin from April 1 to May 19, the total death certificates issued by the hospital was 489 during these dates.

“Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial hospital, Tiruchi and Vellore Medical College Hospital did not report any Covid death from April 1 to April 22, 2021, in the bulletin. Karur Medical College did not report any Covid deaths from April 1 to April 25 in the bulletin in spite of increased mortality over the previous years /previous months.”

However, the overall deaths at these six hospitals declared in the media bulletin for April and May (as of 13 June) was only 863, the report noted.


‘Similar Phenomenon Could Exist Across State’

“Given that the government has consistently underreported in each of the hospitals in the months of April and May; it could be attributed that this phenomenon exists throughout the state as well,” the report read.

In conclusion, the report said that the mortality at these six hospitals was 13.6 times more than the reported COVID-19 deaths. If compared with the increase in deaths over the previous years, the deaths due to COVID-19 and its complications were likely to be 8.4 to 9.8 times more.

“Approximating the same underreporting factor of 8.4 to 9.8 times for the entire state, the likely number of deaths due to COVID in TN may be between 1,08,721 and 1,26,841 against the reported number of 12,943.”

The report also indicated that the government has not reported several deaths on time.

“Government has reported many deaths that happened in April and May in the later part of May and early June.” But off late, the NGO says it has reduced.

“For the entire state, there were 1,243 deaths of April and May reported from June 1 to June 8. However, between June 9 and June 13, only 187 deaths of April and May have been added,” the report read.

The NGO said that this indicated that the government has stopped adding any more COVID deaths that happened in April and May in June’s death data. “This may mean that several deaths that occurred in April and May are still not reported.”

NGO Urges Govt to Audit All Deaths

Now, the NGO has urged the government to thoroughly audit all deaths and report them transparently. If that is not done, the NGO says it will affect the general public, especially those who may need the compensation that government gives to the families, that lost a loved one to Covid.

Government should first accept the problem. It should audit and correct its mistake. Families that have children less than 18 years whose parents have died due to Covid should not be running from pillar to post for compensation because Covid is not written in the cause of death. Transparency is the answer. Will the government listen?
Jayaram Venkatesan, Convener of the NGO tweeted along with the copy of the report

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