Kerala not covering up Covid-19 deaths, follows WHO guidelines: Health Minister KK Shailaja

Kerala not covering up Covid-19 deaths, follows WHO guidelines: Health Minister KK Shailaja

Kerala not covering up Covid-19 deaths, follows WHO guidelines: Health Minister KK Shailaja

Written by Vishnu Varma
| Kochi |

Updated: August 4, 2020 6:00:10 pm

Kerala covid news, KK Shailaja, KK Shailaja Kerala, Kerala covid-19 death, covid-19 kerala, kerala covid-19 deaths, coronavirus in Kerala, indian express news Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja. (File photo)

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja Tuesday dismissed charges that the state is covering up Covid-19 deaths, clarifying that not all deaths detected as Covid-positive in the preliminary examination can be recorded as part of the official tally.

Deaths arising as a result of coronavirus infection in the state are certified in consonance with the International Guidelines for Certification and Classification (Coding) of Covid-19 as cause of death of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the health minister said in a statement. These guidelines have been established as part of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases. A Covid-death, according to these guidelines, can only be one where a patient succumbs to coronavirus infection in a critical condition as a result of severe damage to his internal organs. An expert team of the health department takes the final decision in this regard.

If a Covid-positive patient dies by suicide, drowning, or accident, it cannot be considered a Covid-death, the minister said. Even when a patient, under suspicion of infection, dies, a team of doctors will have to carry out a detailed examination and file a report before it can be added to the official tally.

Similarly, a person dying as a result of severe comorbidities cannot always be termed a Covid-death even if he/she tests positive posthumously. The expert medical team has to evaluate the report filed by the hospital concerning the death of the patient before making a decision.

The minister cited examples of cases by which they were termed Covid-deaths. While a 23-year-old man who died by suicide but later tested positive was not added to the official tally, a 68-year-old Covid-positive patient who died in Thiruvananthapuram on July 31 as a result of severe underlying conditions was added to the list two days later after vetting by the expert panel.

The health department has drawn up a blueprint by which persons brought to the hospital post-death in which the doctor may suspect chances of infection are subjected to immediate testing through genexpert or True-Nat for faster results. All samples testing positive on True-Nat may not however be positive for Covid at all times. People with serious underlying conditions may also give out a false positive. In any case, all such bodies are released from hospital with Covid-tag and must be cremated/buried according to Covid-protocol. The results from genexpert or True-Nat are sent for confirmation to the NiV lab in Alappuzha post which the expert panel decides on the merit of the death.

“Certain deaths that have been flagged by media reports as not included under official tally have been declared by the government after confirmation in the next couple of days. Others, which do not fit the guidelines, have been avoided as well,” the minister said.

Kerala has seen several deaths of persons who tested positive for Covid posthumously, rankling concerns that such cases are being detected late and that the spread of the infection is much larger than being affirmed by the government.

Several Opposition leaders had also raised objections of the manner in which Covid-deaths are tabulated in the state.

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