India on Thursday (June 10) recorded a global record of more than 6,000 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours after one state dramatically revised upwards its data, stoking suspicions that the country’s toll is much higher than reported.
According to health ministry figures, 6,148 people died in the previous 24 hours, taking total fatalities to almost 360,000, the world’s third highest.
The previous world record according to an AFP tally was 5,527 in the United States on Feb 12, although this was also due to an upwards revision of earlier deaths.
On Wednesday, the eastern state of Bihar – one of the country’s poorest states – hiked its death toll by around 4,000 to almost 9,500 after reviewing death records, officials said.
The figures were revised to account for people who died at home or in private hospitals, and the number was some 72 per cent higher than its previous reported death toll.
Bihar’s high court in Patna demanded an audit of the figures after allegations that the local government was hiding the scale of infections and deaths.
Similar accusations have been levelled at other state governments after a recent coronavirus surge saw crematoriums overwhelmed in many places and hundreds of bodies dumped in rivers or buried in shallow graves.
With record-keeping poor even in normal times, many experts believe India’s death toll is several times higher than the official number, meaning it could be over a million – which would make it the world’s highest.
Suspicions have been heightened by the fact that death rates in many countries, for example, Brazil and the United States, are several times higher than in India.
India’s total Covid-19 caseload now stands at 29.2 million after rising by more than 94,000 in the past 24 hours, while total fatalities are at nearly 360,000, according to data from the Health Ministry.
The newly reported deaths had occurred last month. And a district health official said they were investigating the lapse – blaming the oversight on private hospitals.
Indian hospitals ran out of beds and life-saving oxygen during a devastating second wave of coronavirus in April and May.
People died in parking lots outside hospitals and in their homes. Many families also placed bodies in the holy Ganges river as crematoriums struggled.
Those people would likely not have been registered as Covid-19 victims. India has the second-highest tally of Covid-19 infections in the world, after the United States.
But health experts say they believe both coronavirus cases and deaths are being significantly undercounted across the country.
Partly because test facilities are rare in rural areas – where two-thirds of Indians live – and hospitals are few and far between. India’s official death toll is around 359,000 though The New York Times estimates it could be as much as 1.6 million
The government dismissed those estimates as exaggerated. But the main opposition Congress party said that other states must follow Bihar’s example and conduct a review of deaths over the past two months.—AFP