Kerala Health Minister Veena George has said that the State government follows WHO/ICMR guidelines strictly to classify Covid deaths and sought to dismiss criticism from certain quarters that the state may have been under-reporting the numbers by, among others, counting out comorbid persons.

The government is open to examining any complaint of non-inclusion of Covid deaths in the official list. But the minister ruled out any change in norms currently followed unless the Centre or ICMR says so.

The State Health Department has been citing the reduction in all-cause mortality from the pre-pandemic year of 2019 to 2020 as vindication of its overall Covid-19 strategy. It had also sought to leverage this fact for effectively deflecting any charge of under-reporting of Covid deaths.

No deliberate data fudging

Addressing newspersons here at an event organised by the district committee of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, George would not confirm if the State government were willing to reconcile Covid death data as demanded by the Opposition, apart from leading public health experts.

The Minister described as baseless the allegation raised by the Opposition that the State was deliberately fudging the Covid death data. The truth will come out when the state undertakes a formal excess death analysis for the pandemic period. The state’s case fatality rate continues to be 0.4 per cent.

The Minister recalled that a hospital based online Covid death reporting system has been introduced afresh, ensuring transparency. The backlog of undeclared deaths, if any, would be cleared and the list updated soon.

Revealing names of deceased

The government is open to the issue of publishing the list of Covid deaths along with names and other details, if privacy issues don't come in the way. On payment of ex gratia assistance to families, the minister said that all efforts would be taken to ensure that no one eligible for the benefits is left out.

The state has taken up continuous genetic sequencing for virus surveillance. The lockdown may have been lifted and relaxations allowed, but the public, including those fully vaccinated, must maintain all Covid protocols and precautions to ensure safety since the delta virus variant is extremely transmissible.