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EXCLUSIVE: Manipur government underreporting COVID-19 deaths?


No COVID-19 deaths were reported from Imphal East on June 16. However, two documents accessed by TFM showed that two COVID-19 patients from Imphal East died between 5 pm of June 15 and 5 pm of June 16 and their deaths were not reflected in the daily update.

TFM Report

In terms of fatalities due to COVID-19, Manipur is among the worst-performing states registering a death ratio of 1.62 % against the national average of 1.27%. The total number of Covid-19 deaths in Manipur has surpassed 1,000-mark.

As on Wednesday, the State Level Covid-19 Deaths Audit Committee reported 10 COVID-19 deaths, taking the death toll to 1,008. Imphal West and Imphal East accounted for the maximum number of infections and fatalities in the state.

No death was reported from Imphal East on Wednesday. However, two documents accessed by The Frontier Manipur showed that two COVID-19 patients from Imphal East died between 5 pm of June 15 and 5 pm of June 16.

An order issued by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal East on Wednesday said that a 42-year-old woman from Koirengei Nilakuthi Lamkhai, Imphal East, passed away at RIMS Hospital at 2.30 am on June 16. As per the order, she died due to chronic kidney disease (CKD), acute respiratory distress syndrome and COVID-19 pneumonia.

Another order issued by the same office said a 58-year-old male COVID-19 patient from Yairipok Ningthounai, Imphal East, died at JNIMS Hospital at 8:30 pm on June 15.

The orders, which were issued for the performing last rites of the deceased as per wishes of their respective families, clearly stated that both the COVID-19 positive patients died between 5 pm, June 15 and 5 pm, June 16. However, their deaths were not reflected in the daily update by the COVID-19 Common Control Room on a real-time basis.

Such discrepancies cast serious doubt on official data of COVID-19 update. Some experts, who are closely observing all the Covid-related data to understand the situation, expressed suspicion of manipulating the data in an attempt to present a false impression of condition on a par with national average.

According to a report by The Wire on ‘The importance of knowing how many have died of covid-19 in India’, even in the midst of this calamitous second wave, counting the dead is important. Low recorded COVID-19 mortality during the first surge fed government narratives on the successful handling of the epidemic, and these, in turn, might explain the complacency which preceded the devastating current surge. Arriving at credible estimates of the epidemic’s true toll could be a key to mitigating further disaster.

In the last couple of weeks many journalists and media organisations — both national and international — have raised concern that the actual COVID-19 deaths during the second wave in India might be much higher than the official death toll reported by state governments.

Amidst such reports, many are raising concern about the manner in which COVID-19 deaths are reported in Manipur.

It has been learnt that the State Level Covid 19 Deaths Audit Committee examines and declares the official COVID-19 deaths in the state. But its modus operandi is vague to say the least. The criteria for declaring someone died due to COVID-19 is not made public by the committee till date. Under such circumstances, many are speculating that it leaves room for manipulation in the death count of COVID-19 in the state.

The concerned authorities and the committee must clear the air why the two deaths were not reported in the daily update on Wednesday. The committee should make public the procedure it undertakes while declaring that someone has died of COVID-19.

Another interesting point is that the daily COVID update by the COVID-19 Common Control Room has stopped mentioning the sex and age of the individuals who died due to COVID-19 from June 3. There has been no explanation why the decision was taken not to include the sex and age in the daily update.

Earlier, a weekly press conference was held at the Directorate of Health Services, Lamphelpat. But it was stopped ever since the second wave ravaged the state. The authorities should make arrangements to conduct such a press meet again, virtually if not physically, to clear the doubts amongst the public.

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