Days after the Maharashtra government declared 1,328 extra deaths, including 862 were in Mumbai, post a massive data reconciliation exercise, the mismatch in the daily number of Covid-19 related fatalities continues in the financial capital.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation keeps adding past deaths with the updated figures of deaths of Covid-19 patients, causing public health experts to question why the country's richest municipal corporation has failed to timely collate data.
The opposition has claimed that the government is trying to fudge data in order to hide the reality in India’s worst hit state. Maharashtra has so far reported over 1.35 lakh cases and 6,283 deaths.
It has been a fortnight since Mumbai municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal issued a letter to all the city hospitals, asking them to report Covid-19 deaths within 48 hours of the their occurrence. The hospitals were then given a few days to report all the pending deaths.
“…GOI has issued a mandatory reporting of death of COVID-19 positive cases within 48 hours of occurrence. Hence, all hospitals are requested to send information of death cases within 48 hours of the occurrence in "Death Summary Format" to the Epidemiology Cell of MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai)," the order issued on June 8, 2020, had stated.
The BMC said that it was after this order that the hospitals had started sending all the death reports pending for March and April. A whopping 862 deaths were reported from the city after the reconciliation exercise.
A week later, the municipal commissioner had issued another order. This time, it was a warning. The circular issued on June 16, 2020, stated that it will now be presumed that there are no unreported death cases pending with any of the hospitals.
“One last and final chance is given to all the hospitals under the jurisdiction of MCGM to come out clean and report any Covid-19 positive death cases if still pending for reporting for more than 48 hours."
It has been seven days since that stringent warning to all the city hospitals that they will now stand to face strict action under the Epidemic Act if they report the deaths late. And yet, Mumbai's Covid-19 data has been showing a mismatch almost every day.
On June 22, the city reported that 66 Covid-19 patients had died. But of these, 20 deaths were in the last 48 hours. It was noted that 46 deaths were from an unspecified period before June 19.
On June 20, the BMC reported 136 total deaths. Of them, 61 deaths were from before 16 June, and 75 deaths were between June 16 and 19.
While public health experts have raised concerns pertaining to accurate and timely data reporting for getting a realistic picture, the opposition has come down heavily on the government.
"We are at war with Corona, not with the figures. There has to be transparency in sharing data about Covid-19. I have brought it to the notice of the State government several times that during a pandemic of this scale, data has to be consistently shared accurately," BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, leader of opposition and former Chief Minister, told CNN-News18.
When asked about the data mismatch, the BMC said it was still trying to streamline the process of reporting deaths accurately.
"It is an ongoing process. There is so much data. The ID has to be tagged on the ICMR website. We are trying to streamline it so it can be live. This is taking time, but we hope it will be streamlined in a week. There is severe staff crunch in the hospitals too, and their first priority is saving the patients," Dr Daksha Shah, Deputy Executive Health Officer of BMC, told CNN-News18.
Responding to the story, Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said there is zero pendency with his department and that the hospitals are giving the data late.