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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • The HC has been hearing a PIL filed on June 18. The PIL has sought HC’s intervention to direct the state government to conduct an audit into the Covid-related deaths in the state.
  • "The issue of possible undercounting of Covid-19 deaths in Odisha, which the petitioner sought to highlight, is a serious one. However, the court has reservations about the manner in which the petitioner has prepared the petition in haste, based on facts gleaned essentially from press reports
  • On July 5, in an affidavit to the HC, Additional Chief Secretary of Health PK Mohapatra had said 4,925 persons have died due to Covid-19 by July 15 this year. Considering the affidavit filed, the HC had adjourned the hearing on the matter to July 28 (Today).

The Orissa High Court has today expressed complete displeasure over the Odisha Government's affidavit on deaths due to Covid-19 in the State during the second wave. Directing the State to present an elaborate fact-sheet on the pandemic mortalities, the HC adjourned the matter to August 7.

The HC has been hearing a PIL filed on June 18. The PIL has sought HC’s intervention to direct the state government to conduct an audit into the Covid-related deaths in the state. Though the plea was rejected by the HC after it found discrepancies in it, still considering the matter and taking cognizance of attached documents, the HC had then issued orders to the state government.

"The issue of possible undercounting of Covid-19 deaths in Odisha, which the petitioner sought to highlight, is a serious one. However, the court has reservations about the manner in which the petitioner has prepared the petition in haste, based on facts gleaned essentially from press reports,” the two-judge bench observed. The PIL has been filed by advocate Nishikant Mishra.

However, the two-judge bench of chief justice S Muralidhar and justice Justice BP Routray said, “The AG will inform the court on 5th July, 2021 whether the issue of undercounting of Covid-19 deaths has been enquired into by the additional chief secretary, health. The district-wise breakdown of the deaths must be placed before the court on the next date of hearing.”

On July 5, in an affidavit to the HC, Additional Chief Secretary of Health PK Mohapatra had said 4,925 persons have died due to Covid-19 by July 15 this year. Considering the affidavit filed, the HC had adjourned the hearing on the matter to July 28 (Today).

Are Deaths Underreported in Odisha?

Recently, a pre-print study recently published in medRxiv has claimed vast underreporting of Covid-19 deaths in the State. (Note: The study is not peer-reviewed)

As per the study report titled "Excess mortality in India from June 2020 to June 2021 during the COVID pandemic: death registration, health facility deaths, and survey data", Odisha has reported a massive 79 per cent excess deaths during the period of April -June 2021, which incidentally coincided with the Covid-19 second wave in the State. The lead author of the study is Prof Prabhat Jha MD, DPhil, Canada.

According to the study report, it has arrived at the above estimate after taking into account the data from the Civil Registration System (CRS) for the year 2018-19 and Health Management Information System under Union Health Ministry. The CRS 2018-19 data had been used as the average benchmark. The authors had then calculated the excess deaths in Odisha for the years 2020 and 2021.

The results are quite shocking. If the report is to be believed, Odisha had recorded a whopping 22,000 excess deaths in April -May 2021. It says, "the excess deaths in April-June 2021 had been a whopping 79 per cent. Incidentally, the period Apr-May had coincided with the second wave in the State. Odisha had recorded the second wave peak on May 22.

Any Loophole In Death Reporting?

As per experts, deaths, which comes under the code u7.2, were not been included in the official Covid-19 toll announced daily.

What is U0 7.2?

As per ICMR guidelines (based on WHO), deaths where the patient has been clinically and epidemiologically diagnosed as Covid-19 infected but has a negative test report, the case should be listed under code U07.2. Similarly, in symptomatic cases of deaths where the test report is awaited or inconclusive, they are to be included under the code u07.2.

As per WHO, all such cases are to be included in Covid-19 deaths.   

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