Besides official figure, 1,357 COVID patients having other ailments also died in Assam

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(Eds: Updating with additional inputs) Guwahati, Dec 29 (PTI) The Assam government on Tuesday informed the assembly that 1,357 COVID-19 patients who were also suffering from other ailments have died in the state till December 27, besides the official coronavirus death toll of 1,037.

Thus, the state has witnessed the death of 2,394 people who have been infected by the virus since lockdown was announced in March, Health and Family Welfare Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in reply to a query by Congress MLA Abul Kalam Rasheed Alam.

The minister also said that the state government has so far spent more than Rs 1,032 crore for management of COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarma said that 1,037 people have lost their lives due to 'absolute COVID-19 pandemic' as per the Assam State COVID Death Audit Board (ASCDAB).

'In addition to that, a total of 1,357 persons died in that period, when they were infected with COVID-19 along with other diseases. According to the ASCDAB, infection of COVID-19 cannot be termed as the sole reason for their deaths,' he added.

In July, Sarma had announced the formation of the ASCDAB to certify the underlying cause of deaths of all coronavirus patients in the state.

Since then, the COVID-19 toll is being published only after it certifies the cause of death as the infection of novel coronavirus and there have been allegations of downplaying the number to a large extent.

Sarma had earlier on multiple occasions said that several hundred more COVID-19 patients have died, but the government's Death Audit Board has not included them in the tally of deaths caused by coronavirus as they had other ailments too.

The minister also said that the state government has sanctioned Rs 1,096.82 crore for management of COVID-19 pandemic and the total expense in this regard till December 18 is Rs 1,032.50 crore.

Sarma, however, said that final audited statements from various districts are yet to be received and the figure provided in the House is a provisional one.

'...actual expenses and expenses to be incurred in the coming months for essential medicines, critical care and upcoming vaccination programme can be finalised only after audited final report is available,' he added.

The minister said the state headquarter has released Rs 517.77 crore to different districts as of now.

Sarma also informed the House that the state government had engaged 2,781 people for various cleaning jobs on contract basis and they have been relieved now.

'The government feels that their selfless service and sacrifice should be recognised. That is why we have decided to give them priority in all future recruitments by the Health and Family Welfare Department,' he added.

As of Monday night, Assam registered the death of 1,038 people due to COVID-19. The state has so far reported a total of 2,15,997 corona positive cases, of which 3,323 are active and 2,11,633 have recovered. PTI TR NN NN