Lying with numbersThe government has failed so much as to quantify Covid-19 casualties, let alone humanise them.
Global Covid-19 statistics show that as of Wednesday, 1.34 million had died of the coronavirus while 55.6 million had been infected. But human beings are not just numbers. The magnitude of the suffering the coronavirus has caused among humans across the world, and the resilience the people have shown in the face of the invisible enemy cannot be put in figures alone. So we must resist the temptation to quantify the pandemic in terms of the ever-increasing Covid-19 death and infection graph.
Nepal has a different Covid-19 story altogether. It is as if the government's foremost responsibility is to update the number of deaths and infections. Each day, the Health Ministry spokesperson enumerates fresh deaths and infections as if the government's responsibility to fight the pandemic and protect citizens from it stopped right there. What is even more farcical is that when the government is expected to resist the temptation to quantify the deaths and infections, the numbers it puts up are not uniform and hence unreliable.
As per the ministry, Nepal has seen 1,259 Covid-19 deaths, while the number of those infected by the virus stands at 211,917 as of Wednesday. That makes it a fatality rate of 0.59 percent. However, as the Post reported on Wednesday, the number of deaths from the coronavirus is far higher than what the government claims it to be. The team that had been formed to investigate discrepancies in data provided by the ministry and the Nepal Army has found errors in the ministry's numbers while the army's numbers are found to be more reliable in comparison.
As per the army's data, there have been over 1,800 coronavirus-related deaths, way more than the numbers provided by the ministry. The army's figures are based on the record it keeps of the dead bodies it has disposed of ever since it was given the responsibility in March. While the army is pretty confident about its data, the ministry's reporting system was found to be problematic at many levels. What is more, the team found that the definition of death from the coronavirus is different between the ministry and the army. Whereas the army counts the patients who died in home isolation as well as those with Covid-19 symptoms, the ministry skips such deaths.
The discrepancy has exposed a serious failure of coordination between the ministry and the army, two of the government's major institutions that are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic. This failure is symptomatic of a larger problem facing the government: The inability to fathom the magnitude of the pandemic as well as the means to control it. If the pandemic has reduced human beings to statistics, the failure to so much as put the statistics in order is a gross injustice to the lives that have been lost. The government must rectify the mistake it has committed for the past eight months, and provide reliable data about the damage caused by the pandemic.