A survey records 629 oxygen shortage deaths in the second wave

Medical oxygen

More than 600 Covid-19 patients have died in India due to shortage of medical oxygen since 6 April, a survey shows. An independent group of researchers, activists and students from India has been collecting and recording the data on oxygen shortage deaths during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since the first week of May 2021.

The states with most Covid-19 deaths due to oxygen shortage include Goa (83), Madhya Pradesh (65), Andhra Pradesh (65), Karnataka (61), Delhi (59) and Maharashtra (59). As of June 5, the total number of deaths recorded by the group has reached 629.

“The actual number is likely to be much higher,” said Aditi Priya, a group member, on Twitter. In personal correspondence, Priya said that the number is a massive undercount, especially in the rural areas, due to the nature of the data. She further said that the recording is still underway and the group is hoping to publish the findings soon.

The earliest report of such deaths due to shortage of oxygen was recorded from April 8. The group relies on media reports, court documents, reports of local government committees, etc, to verify the number of deaths and avoid repetition or errors in recordings. The numbers are gathered from the reports on deaths occurring in hospitals only.

The group believes that it is important to document and archive these records of loss of human life because they show the failure of our healthcare system. The group also hopes that this database can provide lessons for the future and will be helpful to counter the government’s attempts to deny or erase these deaths. 

“The whole point of recording these deaths was that this was easily avoidable as there were demands raised by some authorities for ensuring oxygen production and supply in 2020 itself,” said Priya. She further said that although there aren’t any specific reports on it and even though this crisis affected everyone, we cannot deny the possibility of deaths occurring due to caste discrimination as caste dynamics play a role in access to resources such as medical oxygen.

The database of these records is freely available under the creative commons licence and can be accessed here. Those who wish to contribute or report the incidents; they can do so by filling this form, sharing their personal stories on or by replying to this thread on twitter with the links to the news reports that might have been missed.

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