Number of COVID-19-related deaths far higher than Health Ministry’s data

Published On: November 29, 2020 08:00 PM NPT By: Ashim Neupane  | @ashimnep

KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Although the Ministry of Health and Population has been releasing official Covid-19-related deaths, several sources say that the real number is far higher than presented by the ministry,  as the government’s data collection is full of flaws.

The official data of the health ministry shows that Nepal has recorded 1,454 deaths related to Covid-19, while the record maintained by Nepal Army shows the number of deaths stands at 2,368 as of Saturday.

Talking to Republica, sources at the COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) said that the record maintained by the health ministry is full of flaws, and the actual Covid-19-related deaths are far more than the government data. “The Nepal Army has the accurate number as every death related to COVID-19 is added in the data. When a COVID-19 patient dies in hospital or at home, the hospital management or the local unit informs the CCMC, and then a team of Nepal Army is mobilized to manage the dead body. The Nepal Army verifies Covid-19 positive report and death certificate to manage the dead body,” a source at the CCMC told Republica.

The COVID-19 mortality rate stands at 0.63 percent according to the government data, while the fatality rate is way higher in Nepal Army’s data. The mortality rate stands at 1.02 percent in the data maintained by Nepal Army. 

The government had also formed a three-member committee comprising officials from Nepal Army, Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), and the health ministry to investigate the discrepancy in the number of deaths. However, the committee is yet to come up with a conclusion.

When Dr Jageshwar Gautam, spokesperson of the health ministry, was asked about the discrepancy in the number, he said Nepal Army counts the death of COVID-19 patients even after testing negative. “The health ministry might have failed to include some deaths in the data. Having said that, the number maintained by the Nepal Army is not accurate, and is way higher than the actual data,” said Gautam.

However, the Nepal Army manages the dead body only after getting a recently tested positive report of Covid-19 patient.

“Even if someone dies after testing negative for COVID-19 but had tested positive some time ago, Nepal Army includes the death in its data. This is the reason there is a discrepancy in the number,” said Gautam.

Though Gautam claimed the health ministry’s data is accurate, a senior official at the ministry said on condition of anonymity that there is a flaw in the government’s data. “The health ministry is not getting accurate data from the provincial governments,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Gautam said that the ministry had requested provincial governments to provide accurate data. “The local levels first report deaths to provincial governments, then the data is reported to the health ministry. After the request from the ministry, provincial governments have been providing accurate data to the federal government,” said Gautam.


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