Welcome revisions by Bihar and Maharashtra – as better death data saves lives 


India has reported an average of 2,000 deaths a day since March 1 and it is possible that the coming days will see this number rise, even as the second wave and its fatalities are declining. This is because a reconciliation of old deaths in the overall tally is ongoing, with the Bihar government for example adding 3,951 such deaths on Wednesday and Maharashtra adding 1,522 on Thursday.

Pre-existing weaknesses of India’s death registration system, where particularly in rural India many deaths are not recorded, have been compounded during the pandemic with complexities of identifying the cause of death. Experts also point to a failure to activate either the Sample Registration System or push the municipal corporations to regularly publish total death counts.

Explained: Why India reported 6,148 Covid deaths in a day – the highest ever

By now there is no doubt that good data is a central tool in battling Covid-19. A more accurate and real-time mortality map of India would allow authorities to track the intensity of outbreaks much more effectively. They could then divert resources to affected areas in a timely way. Even with increased pace of vaccination the pandemic is going to be with the world for the foreseeable future. A truer estimate of its toll will allow us to understand its behaviour better, and implement checkmating strategies detailed to the district level.

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