Updated: December 13, 2021 7:24:09 am
In a year marked by the devastating second wave of Covid-19, Kerala’s all-cause mortality numbers are likely to touch a record high, with 2021 already recording the highest number of January-June deaths in recent years.
In the first six months of the year, Kerala registered 1,55,520 all-cause deaths — a 35 percentage jump from the corresponding period in 2020 (1,15,081 deaths), a year of Covid-imposed lockdown, and a 21 percentage jump from the toll in the first six months of the pre-pandemic year of 2019 (1,28,667 deaths).
All-cause mortality is the total number of deaths, including official Covid deaths.
Data from the state’s chief registrar of births and deaths show that the months of May and June this year recorded a sharp rise in registered deaths over the corresponding period in previous years.
June 2021 was the worst in terms of mortality in recent years, with the state reporting 32,501 all-cause deaths — a 57 per cent jump over the 20,640 all-cause deaths reported in June 2020 and 20,642 deaths recorded in June 2019.
In May this year, the state registered 28,684 deaths — a 33.4 per cent jump over May 2020 (21,488 deaths) and a 24.8 per cent jump over the 22,984 deaths recorded in May 2019.
In these two months, Kerala also reported the highest daily Covid-19 deaths, around 150-200 deaths a day. From May 1 to July 1, the state recorded 7,927 deaths – this does not include the numbers added after the health department’s Covid-19 death reconciliation exercise revised the list after hearing appeals of those whose names were not included in the original list of victims.
Earlier, an investigation by The Indian Express team of reporters had suggested an undercount in the official Covid deaths across the country. But exactly how much can only be estimated and, that too, in at least a year given the way India counts its dead.
As part of the investigation, the newspaper had approached several state governments of whom eight, including Kerala, provided records of deaths they had registered in April and May this year as per the Civil Registration System. Kerala’s figures showed that after the official Covid deaths were removed from the all-cause deaths registered from April 1 to May 30 2021, the numbers were still 1.23 times the figures for the corresponding period in 2019.
Since the start of the pandemic, as on December 8, Kerala has reported 41,831 Covid deaths, with 12,161 added through appeals.
The lockdown impact on deaths was evident in Kerala in the months of March and April of 2020, when the state reported only 16,176 and 13,338 deaths, respectively. However, in the corresponding months of this year, the figures rose to 24,632 and 21,231 respectively.
Data showed that all-cause mortality in Kerala in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, had come down to 2,53,638 from 2,70,567 in 2019. However, the first nine months of this year, up to September 30, have already seen the registered death figure going up to 2,12,712.
Sources said the final figures of August and September are likely to be higher considering the late registration of deaths. According to the statistics department, only 65 per cent deaths in Kerala get registered within the mandatory 21-day period.
The data holds another pointer that indicates that 2021 is set for a record high in all-cause deaths. In recent years in Kerala, the percentage distribution of deaths by month of occurrence showed that the months from July to December have recorded more deaths than the first six months. This trend was visible even in 2020, a year when the state reported a drop in all-cause mortality compared to 2019. With three months of data still to be recorded in 2021, experts predict a surge once the total numbers are in.
The all-cause death data since 2009 show that the annual figure has been steadily above 2.50 lakh since 2015, a trend that experts attribute to the state’s fast ageing population.
Kerala’s crude death rate (the number of deaths per 1,000 population), which was 6.74 in 2009, had reached 7.77 in 2019.
With Kerala’s Covid-19 death reconciliation exercise constantly updating the toll, the state health department had been saying that any pandemic should be reviewed on the basis of total deaths in the period under reference, rather than looking at Covid-19 deaths alone.
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