The Gujarat government on May 26 published a press release that stated that 81.6% of all Mucormycosis cases reported till date are still admitted to various hospitals across the state while 14.3% have recovered.
It further stated that 4.1% of patients diagnosed with the fungal infection had succumbed to it adding that of the total patients admitted, 67.1% were male and 32.9% were female, 0.5% were paediatric cases (patients under 18), 28.4% of the total patients were between 18 to 45 age group, 46.3% were between the age group of 45 to 60 and 29.4% of the total patients were above 60 years of age.
However, the government release failed to state the total number of cases and the total death count due to the fungal infection in the state.
The press release also stated that while 59% had diabetes, 22.1% were immunocompromised and 15.2% had other co-morbidities. Only 33.5% Mucormycosis patients had received oxygen during their COVID-19 treatment. While, just 49.5% patients had received steroids during COVID-19 treatment.
The state government also said that the Chief Minister had asked officials at the city and district levels to take measures so that the Mucormycosis cases do not increase. However, there was no mention of what steps have been taken or planned. Adding to the ambiguity, the release stated that despite of shortage of Amphotericin B (medicine used to treat Mucormycosis) across the state, the government had arranged for the all-important medication. The release did not mention what amount of Amphotericin B was procured and how much had been allocated by the Government of India.
However, Union Minister Sadananda Gowda mentioned in a tweet that Gujarat had been sent 7,250 vials on May 25 this year. As per the list tweeted by the Union Minister, the states with high number of cases in the country as of May 25 are Gujarat with 2,859, Maharashtra that recorded 2,770 cases, Andhra Pradesh with 768 and Telangana with 744 cases.
Also read: Gujarat Records Highest Number of Mucormycosis Cases in India, Data Indicates Diabetes May be a Factor
Noticeably, the release came on the day of hearing of a suo moto public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court about the issue. The High Court held, “The state government’s notification on the distribution of Amphotericin-B injections to hospitals for the treatment of Mucormycosis is quite vague and defective.”
The Gujarat government also announced the formation of a State Mucormycosis Task Force on May 26 through the press release. The decision has come five months after the doctors of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital raised the issue and the Additional Director of Public Health issued an advisory to all government hospitals across the state on December 21, 2020. More than three months ago, on March 10, this year, Ahmedabad Civil had formed it own Mucormycosis Task Force when the total cases in 14 major hospitals in the state were 289, as per local media reports.
It should be noted that while the Task Force of 11 doctors announced by the government includes doctors from ENT, Opthalmology and General Medicine departments from across the state, it does not include any epidemiologist or microbiologist, as doctors had expected to include.
The state government, on May 20, had deemed Mucormycosis as an epidemic and notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 after the Central government’s directive to all states. However, several states that recorded fewer cases of Mucormycosis than Gujarat had already done the same prior to the Centre’s directive.
Govt didn’t share complete COVID-19 data until court direction
The ambiguous data on Mucormycosis and absence of any document of total count is not the first time the state government has attempted to keep the pandemic related data to itself. Earlier, Gujarat government had published a press release stating gender wise and district wise percentage of cases but not the actual number of cases or number of death count due to COVID-19 in the state.
On April 17, the Gujarat High Court in an order stated that, “The government should designate an officer responsible to make statement with regard to the number of positive COVID-19 patients, number of deaths due to COVID-1 and number of deaths due to COVID-19 with comorbidity so that faith and trust can be restored in the minds of public at large.”
The order further read, “If people are to be taken into confidence with regard to the efforts being made by the State during the pandemic, the people at large would definitely cooperate and appreciate the efforts being made. The State has nothing to gain by hiding real picture and suppression and concealment of accurate data would generate more serious problems including fear, loss of trust, panic amongst public at large.”
Also read: COVID-19: Amid Mass Funerals, Shortage of Beds, Gujarat Continues to Under-Report Cases and Deaths
Though the state government began publishing detailed data on number of total COVID-19 cases in districts and death count, both data were allegedly grossly under reported.
The data from hearse vans or Shav Vahini run by the Fire and Emergency Services under the four major civic bodies don’t match the number of deaths being accounted by the civic bodies. Shav Vahinis in four major municipal corporations – Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot -- accounted for 4,761 more bodies from 2020 (onset of the pandemic) till March this year, than between 2019-2020. This year, the Fire and Emergency Services transported 55,603 bodies compared with 50,842 in 2019-2020.
In addition, multiple private mortuary vans run by various NGOs and organisations that ferried bodies from both government and private hospitals to crematoria and burial grounds remain unaccounted so far.