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Covid India Deaths: How many have really died? One state’s readjusted Covid tally deepens doubt on official numbers

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The Covid-19 death toll in Bihar took a drastic leap of 3,951 over the last 24 hours, after a report by the state health department showed numbers in the state had been miscalculated.

The almost 72% jump is further proof of the ongoing allegations of severe under-reporting of coronavirus numbers in the worst-hit country ins Asia.

“The audit was important to assess the ground reality of Covid fatalities in transparent manner to pay ex gratia of Rs4 lakh to each victim’s family. So far, 3,737 families have been paid the ex gratia amount,” Pratyaya Amrit, the additional chief secretary (health) said.

Bihar’s Health Department said 9,429 people have lost their lives so far to the virus, nearly double the state’s previous count. Authorities did not specify when these deaths occurred, but has provided the breakup of deaths in all 38 districts in the state.

The additional fatalities happened mainly during the second wave, according to Amrit, and the count also includes those who who succumbed to Covid complications after recovery.

He said the assessment of unreported Covid-19 deaths was carried out in all the districts by constituting a team at medical college and hospitals so that families of Covid-19 victims would not be deprived of financial assistance. He pointed out that all the data is cumulative as the death toll was around 1,600 in March 2021.

According to the official data provided by the state health department, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the state was 5,458 till Tuesday, However, the revised data on Wednesday showed the death toll has mounted to 9,429.

The move came after the Patna high court flagged irregularities in death figures in Buxar district following which the state government did an audit of COVID-19 deaths at private hospitals and homes not recorded earlier.

As per the latest figures, maximum fatalities were reported in Patna district where the death toll stands at 2,303, followed by Muzaffarpur, which has recorded 609 fatalities so far. Patna also accounted for the highest number of additional deaths reported after verification on Wednesday with 1,070 new fatalities.

As many as 513 cases of mucormycosis or black fungus had been reported in the state so far and 90 of them recovered, 55 died while 368 were undergoing treatment at different health facilities. He said 111 mucor patients were admitted at IGIMS-Patna, 83 at AIIMS-Patna, 40 at PMCH, nine in JLNMCH-Bhagalpur, two at VIMS-Pawapuri and two more admitted at NMCH-Patna.

Bihar is one of the worst affected states by the second wave of the pandemic. According to the Bihar health department, the state had 7,353 active cases till Wednesday, while 6,98,397 people have recovered so far.

India has reported nearly 200 lakh cases thus far in 2021, compared with 103 lakh last year, driven by the delta variant that is more transmissible than other new strains.

While daily numbers have fallen from their peaks, India is still struggling to curb the spread of the virus and accelerate the pace of vaccination to guard against a next wave.

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