Over the past week, more than 100 bodies have been found floating in several rivers in India. According to a letter from the state government seen by Reuters, the government has officially admitted for the first time that among these are the bodies of patients infected with COVID-19. This alarming fact may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in remote areas.
Images of corpses floating in the Ganges River, considered sacred in Hinduism, have shaken the country of India, which is still reeling from a dizzying increase in cases of the Wuhan virus.
Although media reports have linked the growing number of bodies found floating in rivers in recent days to the COVID-19 pandemic, the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, until now the cause of these deaths has not been disclosed.
“The authorities have information that the bodies of people who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other illness are being thrown into the river instead of being treated with proper protocol,” said a senior official of the agency. state, Manoj Kumar Singh, said in a letter dated May 14 to district chiefs seen by Reuters.
The admission comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called on officials to ramp up all health care resources in rural areas as the virus is spreading rapidly in these areas after ravaging the country. city.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has been hit hard by the increase in the number of infections. Health experts say many infections have gone undetected in the villages of Uttar Pradesh.
Mr. Singh, in a memo to district leaders, said the lack of funds to purchase materials such as firewood for cremation was one of the possible reasons for the increase in the release of bodies in the river.
He asked village officials to make sure no more corpses were released into the river, and said the state government would pay the poor families of those who died from COVID-19 an amount of 5,000 rupees (68 crores). USD) per person for cremation or burial. The state has also asked the police to patrol the rivers to prevent this activity.
India has been reporting around 4,000 deaths a day from the disease for nearly two weeks, but health experts say the real number could be much higher because testing is being done so little in the country. rural areas and many other factors.
The skyrocketing death toll in many places has led to a backlog at crematoriums, as well as rising costs.
Uttar Pradesh state spokesman Navneet Sehgal on Saturday denied reports from local media that up to 2,000 corpses of suspected COVID-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the state and surrounding areas. Bihar in recent days.