TNM has collated data and newspaper reports from 12 districts for four days in April and found large discrepancies.

A map of Telangana with numbers all around and an image of a man being tested for COVID-19
Coronavirus Coronavirus Friday, April 23, 2021 - 14:03

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the Telangana government has faced a barrage of criticism over its handling of the health crisis. From not conducting enough tests initially, and issuing bulletins that were inconsistent and incomprehensible to even scrapping the daily health bulletins altogether earlier in February and later retracting the move, the TRS government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been pulled up multiple times by both the opposition and the High Court.

Telangana, like several other states in India, is grappling with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cases seeing an alarming rise in recent weeks. However, TNM found that there is a large mismatch between the COVID-19 data put out officially by the state government and those that are reported by districts, which, however, are not made publicly available.

TNM accessed internal COVID-19 bulletins prepared by District Medical Health Officers (DMHOs) of two districts and compiled district data from media reports for 10 other districts for four days between April 14 and April 17.  Based on this data collected from these districts, TNM found that the Telangana government is ‘officially’ underreporting the COVID-19 case count, by more than 70% at least.

There is, however, no district data for the number of deaths due to COVID-19 during the same period. The only mortality data available is from the state bulletins.   

Let’s compare the discrepancies between the state’s official bulletin and the data reported by the various districts. The thirteen districts are - Jagityal, Kamareddy, Khammam, Nirmal, Sangareddy, Mahabubnagar, Mancherial, Siddipet, Nalgonda, Vikarabad, Medak and Adilabad.

Vikarabad

On April 14, the district health officer reported 262 cases while the state bulletin recorded 60 cases. On April 15, the state reported only 69 cases from Vikarabad, while the DMHO’s report stated that there had been 278 COVID-19 cases. The state’s bulletin had failed to report 209 cases that day. According to the DMHO’s data, 397 people were infected on April 16, however the state bulletin only recorded 95 cases- this time 302 cases were missing from the official tally. The same scenario was noticed on April 17 as well, the DMHO’s report had recorded 418 cases while the state bulletin only reported 122 cases.

If only these four days are considered from April, it appears that the state has been downplaying the figures in Vikarabad by 74.46%.

Adilabad

TNM looked at the data for April 16 and April 17 from Adilabad and compared both the DMHO’s report with the data released by the state health department. On April 17, the DMHO reported 324 cases while the state bulletin revealed that Adilabad had recorded only 92 cases. On April 16, the DMHO report stated that 274 people tested positive for the coronavirus, however the state bulletin claimed that only 85 people had tested positive for the virus. If the two days are considered, it can be concluded that the state had downplayed the COVID-19 cases from Adilabad by 70.40%. 

To check if this holds true with other days as well, TNM looked at DMHO data sourced from local district newspapers and compared it to the state bulletin data. On April 14, though 360 cases were reported in the district as per the DMHO, according to the state bulletin only 91 people tested positive. On April 15, a difference of 204 cases was observed between the district data and the state health bulletin data. If the data from all four days is considered, 908 cases reported in the district data went missing from the state health bulletin. The number of cases that went unreported is roughly three times the number of cases that reflected in the state health bulletin.

Significantly, the Adilabad edition of Eenadu, the highest circulated Telugu newspaper reported on April 19 that the COVID-19 district bulletin’s release has been stopped as per instructions received from the state government.

Across districts downplaying of numbers noticed

The data that TNM has procured from two districts, is the same pattern across other districts too. A collation of Eenadu reports between April 14 and April 17, show that 12 districts in Telangana had reported 24029 COVID-19 cases, as per data sourced by their journalists from the districts.

However, as per the state government’s official tally, the same 12 districts accounted for only 6189 cases. This means that 17840 cases or 74.24%  went unreported. 

In fact, a closer look at the numbers reported by Eenadu showed an increase in the mismatch of the COVID-19 figures with every passing day. On April 14, the total cases according to the data (reported by local newspapers) from the 12 districts was 5012, whereas as per the official state bulletin, the same 12 districts reported only 1245 cases - a difference of 3767 cases.

On April 15, the state bulletin recorded 1401 cases from the 12 districts as opposed to newspaper reports which said 5929 cases were reported from the districts - that’s 4528 (76.37%) missing infections. On April 16, there was a discrepancy of 4550 unreported cases by the state government, while the number of unaccounted infections according to Eenadu and others papers was 4995 or 73.03% on April 17.

It is not just Eenadu, but other Telugu newspapers too have reported the same figures, the data they sourced from the offices of DHMOs.

In the past, the Telangana government has cited a discrepancy in updating district numbers for the mismatch in figures. If you observe the cumulative data for the four days for all the 12 districts considered, the total number of COVID-19 cases as per the district data is 24029, while the state’s official tally has recorded only 6189 cases, during the same time period, in the 12 districts.   

The underreporting of COVID-19 cases in Telangana is not new. In July 2020, TNM had reported the mismatch in figures put out by the districts and the state government. Instead of updating its official tally, the state, however, chose to stop the release of the district health bulletin altogether.

TNM tried reaching out to the Director of Health for a comment but he remained unreachable.

Accusing the Telangana government of attempting to cover up its own inefficiency by downplaying the COVID-19 situation in the state, AICC National Spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju said, “When people have the wisdom to choose who should lead them, they have the right to know the reality. Who is the government to camouflage the reality? Why is the government doubting the wisdom of the people to face the reality? The people should know the reality to face the reality and to help to be better prepared.”

“The people need to be told how many are dying and at the same time the government should ensure there is no panic by telling people what is being done,” added Dr Sravan.

BJP’s Chief Spokesperson K.Krishna Saagar Rao alleges that since March 2020, Telangana state Government has been under-reporting health data regarding COVID-19 infections. “BJP feels CM KCR should ensure the Health Ministry does its job with sincerity and accountability towards public health. Lack of credible reporting can impair effective decision making and planning for efficient management of COVID-19 infection in the state,” he said.

(With inputs from Sreeharsha & other volunteers from Rythu Swarajya Vedika) 

READ: 10 journalists died due to COVID-19 in Telangana in April

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.