Indore: Identified as one of the COVID-19 hotspots of the country, Indore’s administration is scrambling to contain the spread. And now, officials say they have another headache to contend with.
Authorities have noted an “abnormally high” mortality rate in Muslim areas of the city compared to other times.
The trend has been continuing for a little over a week or so. On Thursday, the city’s four cemeteries witnessed 21 burials. The graveyard at Mhow Naka alone accounted for 64 burials from April 1 to 9 including 11 on Thursday, the Khajrana based cemetery has seen 34 burials in the first nine days of the month including one on Thursday, Sirpur saw 29 burials with three on Thursday, and Luniapura saw 56 laid to rest in nine days including six on Thursday, according to a national Hindi daily.
The report said that these four cemeteries saw burial of 127 Muslims in the first six days of April compared to 130 in the month of March.
Md Ikram, son of an elderly woman Mumtaz who died on April 7, said that she had a chest ailment and was turned away by three hospitals, after which doctors at Maharaja Yeshwantrao (MY) called it pneumonia and placed her in the intensive care unit (ICU). Her COVID-19 report was negative. She was observing a mourning period over the last four months after her husband’s death and did not meet anyone.
Zabir Ali, grandson of Kashish Unnisa who died on April 6, said the 85-year-old had no illness and died suddenly. Ranipura resident Md Anzum said that his father-in-law Md Noor, a native of Odisha, had undergone heart surgery a few years ago in Indore and had returned to the city after he felt uneasiness and died recently. According to reports, the family members of these deceased haven’t exhibited any novel coronavirus symptoms.
While the reports so far do not show that the increasing deaths are related to COVID-19, it reflects that people with other serious ailments may be getting neglected because of clinics being closed and government resources being diverted to fight coronavirus.
Speaking to the media about these deaths, Indore collector Manish Singh said that they had no connection with COVID-19 and most of the deceased had hypertension or diabetes.
“Locals are also witnessing restricted movement due to lockdown and local clinics are also closed over infection fear. These figures are in my knowledge but families of these deceased have denied corona symptoms in the dead. But still we are probing into these cases,” Singh said, adding they are also verifying the figures of fatalities.
“We normally compare such figures with data of mortalities of last five years but we are too overworked presently to make this comparison.”
However, there is no established theory which could ascertain the reason behind the high number of deaths. The district administration has formed around 60 teams of health workers to visit the areas. Each unit would visit 200 families in the next 14 days.
People in areas like Khajrana and Bombay Bazaar said locals are quite terrified of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially those who had undertaken Haj and Umrah pilgrimage, returned home without checks, and are now suddenly being tested. Private clinics have been closed by the administration, leaving people with various ailments in a state of anxiety, they said.
Md Anis, a resident of Bombay Bazaar whose grandfather died of on April 9, said that the deceased was highly apprehensive of contracting the coronavirus.
Dr Riyaz Siddiqui, director of the Mayur Hospital and Research Centre in Khajrana, said densely populated Muslim areas are witnessing viral fever and swine flu which are taking a toll on the locals.
There were rumours also in these areas about the kind of treatment offered to suspected COVID-19 carriers at government facilities, locals said.
However, reports also say that funeral processions are reaching cemeteries even late at night and early morning. The administration has urged the people to exercise caution while burying the dead.
Most of these Muslim-dominated areas are in the list of containment zones for prevention of COVID-19 spread of the district administration.
Indore’s deputy inspector general of police Harinarayanchari Mishra could not be contacted on the issue despite several attempts.
Indore has witnessed 235 positive cases and 27 deaths so far.
There were rumours from Mhow, a cantonment town in Indore, that a large number of burials was taking place there. But sub-divisional magistrate of Mhow, Abhilash Mishra, told News18 that these reports aren’t true and the administration has also ordered the cemeteries to report burials to the local station house officer before last rites take place.
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