GANGTOK: As images of disease, death and devastation across the country are causing panic and concern all around, an image of five funeral pyres from Jalipool crematorium near Gangtok has been circulating across various social media platforms in Sikkim, causing much concern amongst the locals.

In light of the panic that is being spread, EastMojo reached out to concerned authorities to clarify the actual number of COVID-19 related deaths in Sikkim.

As reported by EastMojo on Monday, the number of COVID-related deaths in Sikkim stood at 141. The state health bulletin, however, put the number of fatalities at 140 on Monday. As clarified by officials, any death after 2 pm gets reported in the health bulletin the next day.

Read more: Sikkim COVID-19 surge: Govt offices, PSUs shut till Friday

The Medical superintendent of Central Referral Hospital (CRH), Dr Yogesh Verma, told EastMojo that one more COVID-19 related casualty was reported from CRH on Monday.

“A COVID casualty was reported from Central Referral Hospital on Monday. The deceased was a 56-year-old male from Sangtong, Ranka in East Sikkim. The patient was admitted on April 23 with chronic kidney disease and was put on ventilation. He was in the SICU when test COVID-19 positive and was then shifted to the COVID ward, where he expired,” Dr Verma said.

This image with five funeral pyres at Jalipool has been circulating on social media in Sikkim

This took the death toll to 142 on Tuesday.

Moreover, the CRH was told to have a COVID ward only on Sunday, and the hospital made one functional on Monday.

Read more: Sikkim: Manipal Hospital to have 100-bedded COVID ward

“We are in a transition phase and getting the format and template ready for reporting from today. Unless a COVID positive patient came to the Emergency Ward and died, we were not reporting COVID deaths from our hospital until now. Once we receive the template, we will start reporting and sharing figures with the state government”.

But five funeral pyres at Jalipool?

Gangtok Municipal Corporation (GMC) was assigned to carry out the cremation of COVID fatalities in 2020.

“Yes, there were five COVID cremations at Jalipool on Monday. Four were from STNM Hospital and one was from Central Referral Hospital. We could not carry out any funeral on Sunday, so all of them were done together on Monday. All the corpses were taken in the same vehicle and their funeral carried out together,” a GMC worker who was part of the cremations told EastMojo.

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The five deaths included a 86-year-old man from 6th Mile, Tadong, Gangtok who died around 11:30 am on April 25. The second one was on Monday morning around 3:30 am, when a 69-year-old female resident from Jalipool, near Gangtok expired. Another death was reported at STNM Hospital, which was a case of death on arrival when the patient was being brought from Namchi District Hospital on Sunday. The person was tested RAT positive in Namchi and was referred to STNM Hospital. The person was brought dead to STNM around 1 pm on Sunday. On Saturday, a 60-year-old male from Arithang in Gangtok was brought to the Emergency ward of STNM Hospital and later declared dead. The person was found positive on RAT, which had been accounted as 138th COVID casualty in Sikkimate, claim the authorities.

This, alongwith the death recorded at CRH Manipal, account for five deaths and fineral pyres on Monday.

Read more: Sikkim: How STNM Hospital edges with its oxygen supply

On Tuesday, GMC Commissioner HK Chettri told EastMojo that the five cremations carried out Monday included the fatalities from Sunday.

“There were two deaths on Sunday and three on Monday. If it is a case of death late in the day, we carry out the funeral the next day. We get information immediately if there is a death, but a lot of concern delves on the family of the deceased who have to be informed prior to the cremation. We have to show the body to the family,” Chettri said.

In 2020, GMC ensured isolation for individuals carrying out the COVID funerals. But with a decline in the number of fatalities between January and March, the GMC workers were disbanded.

“But with the onset of this second wave, new casualties are coming in. The team has been brought together to carry out the cremations. We do not have many individuals, so we will have to start isolating our workers,” said Chettri.

Read more: Sikkim shuts schools, colleges as COVID-19 cases spike

STNM Medical Superintendent KB Gurung said dead bodies from the hospital are ferried only after 2 pm to avoid funeral proceedings to clash at the crematorium with non-COVID deaths.

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