World

Indian state sharply raises death toll, prompting call for review

NEW DELHI : An Indian state has raised its Covid-19 death toll sharply higher after the discovery of thousands of unreported cases, lending weight to suspicion that India's overall death tally is significantly more than the official figure.

Indian hospitals ran out of beds and life-saving oxygen during a devastating second wave of coronavirus cases in April and last month - many died in parking lots outside hospitals and at their homes.

Many of those deaths were not recorded in Covid-19 tallies, doctors and health experts say.

India has the second highest tally of infections in the world after the United States, with 29.2 million cases and 359,676 deaths, according to Health Ministry data.

But the discovery of several thousand unreported deaths in the state of Bihar has raised suspicion that many more coronavirus victims have not been included in official figures.

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The Health Department in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, revised its total virus death toll to more than 9,429 from about 5,424 on Wednesday.

The newly reported deaths occurred last month and state officials were investigating the lapse, a district health official said, blaming the oversight on private hospitals.

"These deaths occurred 15 days ago and were uploaded only now in the government portal," said the official.

Health experts sayinfections and deaths are undercounted across the country partly because test facilities are rare in rural areas, where two-thirds of Indians live, and hospitals are sparse.

The New York Times estimated India's death toll at 600,000 to 1.6 million.

The government dismissed those estimates as exaggerated, but the main opposition Congress party said other states must follow Bihar's example and conduct a review of deaths over the past two months. - REUTERS

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