The Bihar government on Wednesday corrected the figures of fatalities due to Covid-19 and put the toll at 9,375 from the first and second waves after verification. The toll was just 5,424 a day earlier.
The revision came after repeated reminders from the Patna high court which pulled up the state government over its failure in properly maintaining the record of deaths.
Advocate General Lalit Kishore said he would present the details of the updated toll before the court when the case related to Covid management will be taken up for hearing this week. The court is looking at issues such as death registration as well as preparedness for a possible third wave.
Dr Sunil Kumar, Indian Medical Association state secretary, said that the actual figure could go further up as the state was still considering only the positive reports of the rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests as the yardstick. He added there were many who just did not go for any tests and were in home isolation or others who tested negative in rapid and RT-PCR tests but were positive as per chest scan.
“The data collected in the rural areas is also very weak and so is the level of awareness. We apprehend that the death figures could go higher… A large number of people remained in home isolation and those deaths are not reported in the absence of test reports.”
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A high court bench of chief justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sanjay Kumar on May 18 pointed out the inconsistency in figures of deaths in Buxar, where 81 corpses were found floating in the Ganga and sought details of both Covid and non-Covid deaths in the state.
“We are aghast at the manner in which the affidavits are being filed. We notice that the official website maintained… for recording the births and the deaths has not yet been updated. We see no reason as to why the deaths, whatever be the number and wherever they may have taken place, would not have been updated on the official website. Deaths may have also taken place in home isolation, at care centres, private hospitals, etc. Equally, this would apply to all the districts of Bihar,” the bench said.
On May 21, the bench was told how delays in the issuance of death registration certificates were causing problems to the kin of victims in availing insurance claims and other compensation.
The court said that Buxar was a test case. “If officials of the panchayati raj institutions and others do not comply with the court’s order within a week and fail to update death registration, we will stop their salary and even seize their powers.”
On May 25, the bench reiterated it was important that every death was recorded and documented from every village, block, district or town. It added it could go a long way in helping the state prepare for the third wave with an overall view of the ground situation.
This prompted the state government to order district magistrates to comply with the orders within 10 days.