Is Telangana govt. shying away from giving exact figures?

Disaster Response Force personnel of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation spraying disinfectant along a busy Hyderabad road on Monday. NAGARA GOPAL   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

Under-reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Telangana is again the topic of discussion among highly placed officials in the government and the medical fraternity. The same issue was the centre of focus last year too.

Though officials in the top levels are tight-lipped about the scale of under-reporting, they have confirmed that the numbers are higher than what is being presented in the daily media bulletins issued by the State Health department.

Several officers that The Hindu contacted spoke on the condition of anonymity even as they admitted that the condition in the State was turning worse by the day. Some even compared Telangana to neighbouring Maharashtra and Gujarat in terms of the sharp spike in the number of coronavirus infections. Senior officers at the State level have even instructed district-level officers to refrain from issuing health bulletins, so that there is no conflict between the State government’s daily COVID-19 bulletin and district-level updates.

“We have been given targets for how many tests are to be carried out, and test results are being monitored regularly by officials in Hyderabad. Online reports on the State’s official website and the daily State bulletin are differing in numbers, but I don’t want to get into it,” said a senior officer. Another official said that the numbers being reported by the government in the health bulletin are not the actual numbers, and that the figures were way higher.

“I don’t want to reveal the exact numbers but they are much higher than what the media is told. This under-reporting is detrimental to the State, since Telangana cannot ask the Centre for the actual support required unless it reveals actual numbers,” the official said.

One reason most officials attributed to this under-reporting is that the government wishes to avoid a panic amongst the public. However, officials also questioned this logic, since under-reporting might also lead to lax behaviour on the part of the public, whereas reporting the actual numbers can make people aware of how grim the situation is.

Double-digit deaths

As another marker of how serious the COVID-19 situation in Telangana is, deaths at the State-run Gandhi Hospital were in double digits. While the health bulletin was showing daily deaths across the State to be near single digits until four days ago, the actual numbers are closer to 70 per day at Gandhi Hospital itself, a senior IAS officer closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the State said.

When the same issue was pointed out last year, officials said that a committee which audits deaths evaluates reasons for the mortality. Though a person who got COVID-19 died, deaths were attributed to other health complications such as heart attack, stating that was the reason for the death and not COVID-19. The officer said that most of the districts in the State have already ran out of oxygen cylinders. “There is a severe shortage of oxygen cylinders, including in Hyderabad,” he said.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 9:01:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/is-govt-shying-away-from-giving-exact-figures/article34361767.ece

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