Mumbai civic body is suppressing COVID-19 death toll: Devendra Fadnavis
Mumbai, May 08: BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday alleged that the Shiv Sena-controlled civic body was under-reporting COVID-19 deaths and "manipulating" the infection rate in Mumbai.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was attributing the deaths of some COVID-19 patients to other reasons and thus suppressing the real toll of the viral infection, he said in a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
"The 'death due to other reasons' category has to be used only in exceptional cases, like when a COVID-19 patient commits suicide, dies in an accident, is murdered, is brain-dead or a fourth-stage cancer patient," Fadnavis said.
The BMC was classifying some COVID-19 deaths in this category in a dubious way, the former chief minister hinted. Notably, the Supreme Court had recently praised the Mumbai civic body for managing the second wave of the pandemic efficiently.
Fadnavis further said the BMC reported deaths of 683 COVID-19 patients under this "suspicious category" of 'death due to other reasons' between February to April. This accounted for 39.4 per cent of total 1,773 deaths reported in the city during the period, he claimed.
"In the same period, at least 15,958 people died in the rest of the state and of these, 119 were shown as death due to other reasons', which is 0.7 per cent," the BJP leader said in the letter. As per the BMC, the city's coronavirus caseload as of Friday was 6,71,394 and death toll 13,687.
The Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly also alleged that the BMC was manipulating the infection rate by relying more on Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT). "The city has the capacity of conduct one lakh RT-PCR tests per day, but the average of last 10 days is 34,191. Out of it, 30 per cent are Rapid Antigen Tests," he said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research recommends upto 30 per cent RAT in total testing when RT-PCR capacity is low, otherwise RAT can not exceed 10 per cent, Fadnavis said.
The efficiency of RAT is less than 50 per cent so such tests can be misleading, he added. On May 7, 45,726 tests were conducted, of which 14,480 (31.67 per cent) were RAT, due to which the infection rate was 7.6 per cent in Mumbai, Fadnavis said.
"However, on May 3 the BMC had conducted 26,586 tests of which 4,453 (17 per cent) were RAT which resulted in infection rate of 11.3 per cent," he pointed out. Testing is being manipulated thus to show drastic fall in infection ratio, the opposition leader alleged.
Reacting to Fadnavis' allegations, state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said it was "stomach ache" (jealousy) due to good work of the BMC. "During the second wave that started on February 10 2,287 deaths have been reported till today, which puts the (mortality) rate at 0.7 per cent.
"There are nearly 3,000 deaths per week in Delhi. Even if other deaths are added to the COVID-19 casualties, the death rate in Mumbai would be 0.8 per cent, lowest in the world. "We are proud of Mumbai," said Sawant, whose party is part of the Sena-led government in Maharashtra.