The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has directed the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) to send comprehensive data on deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic by July 15.

The GCC has so far not officially released any comprehensive data on the total number of deaths during the period from February to June.

Stressing the need for “consistency of data on COVID-19 mortality”, the Centre has asked the GCC to compile correct data on all deaths from February to June and also [other deaths] during the corresponding period last year, said official sources.

Currently, the GCC and other urban local bodies in the country have been unable to achieve consistency in data on COVID-19 mortality, owing to the absence of a reliable single source of information.

Officials said that reporting of COVID-19 mortality remained a challenge because of the absence of comprehensive data on “residents who died at home” and “patients who were brought dead to hospitals”.

Data on residents who died after testing positive for COVID-19 has alo not been properly included in the COVID-19 mortality data.

Currently, the GCC compiles most of its data on COVID-19 deaths from the Directorate of Medical Services and the Directorate of Medical Education, which source the numbers from government and private hospitals.

An official said that such data was incomplete because some COVID-19 deaths had occurred at home and on the way to hospitals. Sanitary inspectors of the 200 wards in the city have also not been able to get correct data. Officials added that they were unable to reliably collate the same from burial grounds in the city as the COVID-19 status may not have been certified by doctors in such cases.

Similar discrepancies are likely in other cities too, with officials claiming that the error in COVID-19 mortality is expected to range from 5% to 20% in many cities in the country.

While the GCC has now started compiling data from multiple sources, a doctor said that gathering information from more than one source was “leading to double entries”.

Many deaths that occurred between February and June have not been registered by sanitary inspectors in the city. The city registered an average of 150 deaths a day before the pandemic.

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