Covid deaths in the second wave is nearing three-fold in Assam and that too in less than three months, if compared to the total fatalities due to the virus infection in the entire year from March 31, 2020, to March 31 this year. The state death audit board claimed the numbers have been crystal clear since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Whether it’s in Guwahati or Hatsingimari, each and every Covid death has been counted in Assam. The numbers may look unusually high in the state in the second wave. But the fact remains that there was no undercounting of the cases,” state death audit board chairperson, Dr Anup Kumar Barman, told TOI on Tuesday.
Barman was referring to the Covid fatality monitoring system in the state where all hospitals are required to report the death figures on a day-to-day basis. Hatsingimari, the headquarters of the South Salmara-Mankachar district bordering Bangladesh in the western front of Assam, may seem far, but Barman said for the health department every death is crucial, whether it occurs in a renowned hospital in Guwahati or in a smaller healthcare institution in lesser known Hatsingimari.
As per government statistics, between March 31, 2020 and March 31 this year, a total of 1,105 deaths occurred due to Covid. On the other hand, the corresponding figure from April 1 to June 14 is as high as 2,889. The death rate between March 31, 2020 and March 31, 2021 was 0.51%, but, for the period since April 1, the same has been 1.18%. A total of 3,994 Covid deaths have been confirmed by the Assam government since March 31 last year with a death rate of 0.86%.
Barman said the deaths are first audited by the hospitals where the fatalities are reported from and then the state death audit board checks the figures. He said the board has enough faith in the audits that have already been done. “There is no point carrying out the audit again. The mechanism in place in Assam is such that any Covid death from any hospital in the state has to be reported to the state health department on a daily basis,” he added.
The rise in deaths in a shorter span of time in the second wave has to be counted in the light of deaths due to comorbidities. They have accounted for about 65% of the fatalities this time. Since they were Covid positive, they are being counted in the Covid death list as per government directives. The same was not the case in the first wave, when the deaths primarily caused by the virus infection were counted in the Covid death tally.
Nevertheless, the death audit in the second wave helped the health department ascertain the vulnerability of patients having comorbid conditions. “About 65-70% Covid patients who died had comorbidities,” Barman said.
He noted that while in the first wave, maximum deaths occurred of people above 65 years, in the second wave maximum deaths were reported in the age group of 45-65. “Delayed hospitalization has been one of the main factors that contributed to the high death numbers in the second wave in Assam,” he observed.
“An audit only helps us to find out if there is any lacuna in treatment or logistics or any missing link. But we can ensure that there has been no unreported Covid death,” he asserted.