TN under-reports Covid-19 deaths? Probe ordered

Following allegations that the Tamil Nadu government is under-reporting the number of deaths caused by Covid-19, State Health Secretary Beela Rajesh today said a committee will be formed to look into the issue.

A nine-member committee will now audit all coronavirus deaths in Chennai, where it is suspected that most of the deaths not included in the government data occurred.

A show-cause notice has been issued to hospitals after 236 COVID-19 deaths were not reported by the Tamil Nadu government. According to a report by TOI, at least 460 people succumbed to COVID-19 in Chennai till June 8 which is more than double the 224 announced by the directorate of public health (DPH). The matter came to light after the scrutiny of the city corporation death registry by the DPH when officials visited Ripon buildings on Tuesday.

On June 9, Director of Public Health Dr TS Selvavinayagam wrote to the Chennai Corporation Commissioner to furnish all COVID-19 death records as early as possible.

According to the letter, the committee is headed by Dr P Vadivelan DPH (OSD) and has members from the Directorate of Medical Education besides Greater Chennai Corporation’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jagadeesan.

Denying allegations that the government had “fudged” the numbers to show a lesser toll, the state’s Health Secretary Beela Rajesh said that a “nine-member reconciliation committee to streamline Covid-19 deaths data will look into all such cases”.

“We don’t have to hide the death data, we cannot do that. We have been accurately reporting all Covid-19 deaths as reported from hospitals in the public and private sector. Following latest reports that there were several deaths that were not reported, we have formed this committee to assess all these alleged Covid-19 deaths in city limits,” she said.

A few days ago, Arappor Iyakkam had alleged under-reporting of deaths due to the pandemic in the State. Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of the NGO, filed a complaint with the Health Secretary, stating that the deaths of three persons — two in Government Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai and one in Raja Muthiah Medical College Hospital, Cuddalore — have not been reported by the health department till date.