The second wave is now abating in Bangalore. Whether due to natural peaking or due to the lathi-handed lockdown will be something to debate and discuss over time. For now, there is a much lower sense of numbness and helplessness as the cases seem to be climbing down every day. There is a mild hope over the lockdown being lifted, even partially. The hospitals continue to be full, but one hears that this is because of people from outside the city, not from within. At one point, people fled Bangalore looking for beds in other cities. Now, the trend has reversed.
What it leaves behind is another story. The daily bulletin from the Health Ministry continues to show around 200-300 deaths per day for Bangalore. This seems to suggest an exceedingly high CFR, but you need to look into the deaths data to realise that deaths that happened over the past month are being recorded every day. May 29th’s bulletin, for eg recorded 278 deaths, of which around 5 were from April, and the rest in May, spread all the way from the start to the end of the month. How does one make sense of Fatality rates with this?
As April deaths are winding down in May bulletins, this is a good enough time to take stock and see how badly Bangalore was hit, at least as per official figures. Official positives stand at a total of 321913 cases recorded over April. This, by itself is a ridiculous figure. On April 30th the 7 day average of per day cases stood at 20000 cases! Going by deaths recorded, however, there were 1756 deaths recorded giving a Fatality rate of 0.55% which is pretty good considering the number of cases. Except that a closer look tells otherwise.
Of the 1756 deaths recorded in April, around a 70 were from March, leaving us with 1682 deaths that actually occurred in April. This can be found from the Annexure recording the date of death in the daily bulletins. May continued to record deaths from April, and the number eventually doubled. As of the May 29th bulletin, there have been a total of 3320 people who have died in April officially of Covid. This brings us a fatality rate of 1.03%, almost double of where we were! Given the carnage that ensued in Bangalore with crematoria running out of slots and breaking down with the load, and people having to burn bodies in mass pyres, your guess is as good as mine about what the true numbers were. As per this same official data we were seeing on an average around 230 deaths per day during the last 5 days of April, due to Covid.
May continued to be bad, but the worst seems to be over. May 5th recorded 337 cases and continues to add numbers as the data keeps coming in every day. But the worst seems to have been the 1st week of May recording 280+ cases per day on average. Again, the data continues to come in. I will have to do another post summarising this end of June. So far, it looks like a carnage.
Given how hard it was for many to find beds, to even get tested in time, the number of deaths due to Covid is a gross under-estimate. I wonder if we were seeing upwards of 1000 deaths per day during the first week of May. To say that a death was due to Covid is itself contentious, hanging the cause on the thread of an RT-PCR or RAT test. Many with other healthcare needs were denied access due to overflowing hospitals. The only true accounting would be the excess deaths that happened between mid-April and mid-May 2021 as compared to the same period in 2018, 2019 and 2020.This will happen based on death certificate data from BBMP, once the dust settles.
As of now, the count of deaths that happened between April 16th and May 15th stands at 6470 for an average of 215 per day and a CFR of 1.22% (528620 positives). This is a ridiculous figure and it will show up as an increased fatality rate across age-groups. And this increase in fatality rate due to higher load on the system clearly implies that a system that could’ve handled the load better could’ve reduced a lot of deaths. For 528620 cases, a fatality rate of 1% is 5286 deaths, a difference of 1200 deaths already! And we’re still not done counting May deaths!
How easy is it to detach oneself, to view deaths as just a number. It needs reminders that this a calamity on a scale never seen before in Bangalore, that every death was someone’s family and friend. And given the nature of the disease, it is very likely that many families were hit with multiple deaths too.
We don’t do cyclones here, nor the kind of crazy excess rains that batter other Metros. We don’t have earthquakes, and the pollution benchmark has been lifted too high up North for us to make a squeak or try to think of excess deaths attributable to pollution. We haven’t been ruled by genocidal despots like some states, yet. Our worst problem is our traffic, which kills around 2 people a day. Covid-19 is by far the worst calamity to hit Bangalore, and we are not done yet.
The vaccination is ramping up. For the 70+ age group there seems to be a marginal decrease in proportion in total deaths as compared to April. Can it be attributed to vaccinations? Only time and more analysis will tell. For now, the hope is that the next wave can be prevented by vaccination. But will we get there in time?