By Vrinda Lobo
The second wave of COVID-19 has hit India like a tsunami and killed thousands. We have seen images of fires in crematories burning 24 hours and hundreds of dead bodies floating in the Ganges and other rivers. With the cases declining voices are getting louder questioning the number of COVID-19 deaths released by the Union Health Ministry.
According to central health ministry data, on Saturday India reported 84,332 fresh coronavirus infections, taking the cumulative caseload to 29.3 million, with 4,002 new deaths in the last 24 hours ,taking the death toll to 367,081.
The Union Government today in a press release claims that it has been transparent in its approach to COVID-19 data management. Union Health Ministry regularly emphasizes the need for a robust reporting mechanism, for monitoring district wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. States/UTs are asked to record COVID-19 deaths as per ‘Guidance for appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ issued by ICMR.
Has the Union Government been as transparent in its COVID-19 data management as stated? There is a growing mistrust of the government in the Indian population and abroad, projecting that the true figures are five to seven times higher.
In its article published May 25 the New York Times magazine claims that the official Covid-19 figures in India grossly understate the true scale of the pandemic. The international magazine speculates that the estimated total number of COVID-19 infections might be 539,0 million and estimated deaths 1,6 million.
The article triggered a major discussion across India, wondering if the Indian population has been lied to over the last year. Thousands of cases across India have not been reported as COVID-19 deaths.
The Union Health Ministry calls the article speculative, without any basis and misinformed. “The unsound analysis of the said article is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. Studies which are used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality are not validated tools for determining mortality rate of any country or region,” it said.
The Union Government is strongly denying accusations that the COVID-19 figures are false and manipulated, saying that the data published is correct. It is clear that no doubts will be clarified and questions will remain unanswered. It is the general approach of the Indian Government to ignore and lie whenever needed.
With the images of floating bodies in the Ganges and patients grasping for oxygen, families crying and begging for help and admission in hospitals, one keeps wondering about the truth. The families and relatives who have lost their loved ones in the battle against COVID-19 have the right to know the truth.
Enough of lies and made up stories! People deserve to know the truth and get prepared for another deadly wave.