India logged over 83% rise in covid deaths in last one week


India has reported a significant increase in deaths because of covid-19 during the ongoing festival season, with an 83% rise in the last one week. India’s covid-19 related deaths have also been a major contributor to the world’s coronavirus death burden, which swelled by 8% last week, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) covid-19 weekly epidemiological update issued on Tuesday.

New weekly deaths increased by 8% as compared with the previous week, with more than 50,000 new fatalities, WHO said. The observed rise in new weekly deaths has been mainly driven by the Southeast Asia region, which reported the largest increase (50%), followed by the European region (12%) and the Western Pacific region (10%).

More than 246 million confirmed cases and nearly 5 million deaths have been reported globally, as of 31 October. “The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (3,917 new deaths; 0.3 new deaths per 100000; an 83% increase), Thailand (450 new deaths; 0.6 new deaths per 100000; a 7% decrease), and Indonesia (200 new deaths; 0.1 new deaths per 100000; a 21% decrease). The number of deaths in India accounted for 79% of new weekly deaths in the region,” the WHO document said.

The rise in numbers is the outcome of gatherings in the festive season, said public health experts in India. “In the last month, Durga Puja and Eid were celebrated, leading to large gatherings of people who did not follow covid norms in terms of social distancing and wearing masks. Now also, during Diwali, there will be a risk of people gathering in crowded markets or otherwise, which will significantly increase the risk of the number of cases as and deaths because of covid-19,” said Dr Manoj Sharma, senior consultant, internal medicine at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, Delhi.

“Wearing a mask is really important. If we see the timeline, after a few days of Durga Puja and Eid, the number of cases started increasing. Reinforcement of using masks and following social distancing norms are very important to keep the number of cases under control,” he said.

The undercounted death numbers are also being added on a daily basis, increasing the total numbers of deaths, according to some health experts. “The rise in covid-19 death numbers in India in the last one week can be attributed to the addition of previously undercounted deaths during the pandemic. This increase is predominantly from Kerala, where undercounted deaths from March 2020 till June 2021 are now being added, swelling the numbers being reported now,” said Dr Harsh Mahajan, president, NATHEALTH, Healthcare Federation of India.

This declaration of past deaths now may be attributed to a recent Supreme Court order regarding compensation to be paid by the government to families of those who died because of covid-19, Mahajan said. “To claim this compensation, many families of the undercounted patients are now approaching the authorities and the government has had to add to the number of deaths. Hence, there is no increase in recent deaths and the number of new covid-19 infections and deaths is quite under control. New infections have been progressively reducing because of a combination of rapid vaccination and high seropositivity in the population at large,” said Mahajan.

“There was a steep rise in Bengal after Durga Puja. We expect a rise after about 2 weeks. About 35% of the population has been double vaccinated,” said Professor N.K. Ganguly, president, Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research and former director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

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