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Gujarat Covid toll higher than official count? | India News


SURAT/VADODARA/AHMEDABAD/RAJKOT: At a Surat crematorium on Wednesday night, five bodies were cremated on a single makeshift pyre built to speed up the disposal of a rush of corpses. Elsewhere, in crematoriums across Gujarat, the constantly smouldering pyres were testimony to fatalities much higher than the state government’s official Covid-19 death toll. The Surat crematorium had three such oversized beds of wood meant to reduce the dead to ashes.
Bulletins released by municipal corporations of four major cities officially state around 25 deaths each daily, but the mortalities are much higher.
Bharuch has cremated 260 Covid dead in 8 days, official toll still 36
At Vadodara’s SSG Hospital, the biggest hospital in central Gujarat, at least 180 people have died in Covid ICUs in the last nine days. The number of deaths in Covid ICUs in GMERS Medical College and Hospital, Gotri, another major hospital in Vadodara, too, is no less. Sources said the Covid-19 ICU alone has seen 90 deaths since April 7, while ICUs on the fourth and fifth floors are seeing at least 15 fatalities a day.
Together, the toll in these two government-run Vadodara hospitals alone is close to 350 in a week. In contrast, government figures put the total death toll of the pandemic in entire Vadodara district at 300 since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. In Bharuch, at least 260 Covid-19 victims have been consigned to the flames in the designated crematorium since April 7. The data was obtained from the crematorium register. However, the official death toll in Bharuch district since the beginning of the pandemic last year is 36.
Dharmesh Solanki, who handles cremations on the banks of the Narmada river, said, “Over the last one week, we are getting bodies of 22-25 patients daily. Nearly 7,500 kg of wood is being supplied every day.” In Ahmedabad, the last rites of about 100 bodies are being performed daily for the past four days across 10 crematoriums and burial grounds.
Top sources said that in the past week at least 50 bodies of Covid patients have been handed over to their families every day. “In the past two days, this figure has crossed the 100 mark,” sources said. “If one considers 147 public and private hospitals treating Covid patients, the daily death toll in Ahmedabad is definitely not under 30 as reported by the government in the past three days,” a source said.
Rajkot district, too, has seen over 298 deaths in various Covid hospitals from April 8 to April 14. However, the death audit committee has officially declared 57 deaths which, it says, occurred “purely” due to Covid. On Thursday, another 82 people succumbed in the district. When TOI checked the records at two big crematoriums in Surat, there were at least 80 bodies brought daily, the majority being Covid-19 patients, from April 5 to April 13, after which three new crematoriums were started. In the newly built Pal crematorium, at least 20 bodies are being cremated daily.
On Thursday, the official death toll released by Surat Municipal Corporation was
25. TOI spoke to a number of senior officials and medical professionals working in designated Covid-19 hospitals to decode the discrepancy. “It is true that more Covid patients are dying than the numbers released suggest,” said a senior health administrator. “Hospitals list out Covid victims with co-morbidities but this number is not included in the final death toll published by the government.”
On Saturday, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani denied reports that the state government was hiding the true count of Covid fatalities. “As per the guidelines of the ICMR, if a co-morbid patient dies, then a committee of experts decides the primary and secondary causes of death,” he said. “If that committee identifies the main cause of death as a heart attack, then even if the patient was infected, such a death is not counted as being caused by Covid.”
“This drastically reduces the numbers as some 60% Covid-19 dead have co-morbidities. The government thinks that not giving out total death numbers helps prevent panic. However, it is not good to create a false sense of well-being,” said another health administrator.
In Surat, pyres 18 feet long and eight feet wide, built to accommodate five bodies at one go, were placed at a distance of three feet from each other. The idea, the authorities said, was to reduce waiting time; the result was the dead being denied dignity in death. “When there is a huge rush of bodies, we are forced to cremate five bodies on one big pyre,” explained Pravin Patel, a Kailash Moksh Dham crematorium trustee.

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