India has been bleeding for days due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has worsened, increasing the number of deaths and infections. The Asian country has already replaced Brazil as the biggest concern for health authorities in this pandemic. European governments are beginning to alert citizens not to travel there.
A new controversy was added to the difficulties in controlling the epidemic on Tuesday: At least 1,150 deaths linked to Covid-19 have not been included in New Delhi's official fatalities count, indicating that India's actual number of deaths from the pandemic might be much higher, according to an investigation published on Tuesday.
The body of a person who died from the of COVID-19 coronavirus lies before cremation. Photo: Naveen Sharma/dpa.
Aerial photographs showing the scale of mass cremations in the capital have raised concerns about a mismatch between government numbers and the actual death count. Makeshift pyres are being built in crematoriums as New Delhi, India's worst-hit city, is running out of space to cremate its dead.
It is in this context that the notice launched on Tuesday by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is framed.
The health agency advises Finnish residents to avoid traveling to India at all costs for now.
"The epidemic situation in the country has deteriorated rapidly and a new transformed coronavirus B.1.617 has also been detected in India," says THL.
At present, there is insufficient information on the ability of this new Indian variant to infect and spread or cause a severe form of the disease. Hence the call for caution from the health authority. India's external borders have been closed for the time being and the issuance of tourist visas has been largely suspended.
A view of a mass cremation of victims of the Covid-19 in New Delhi. Photo: Naveen Sharma/dpa.
An independent investigation by broadcaster NDTV, which visited the city's civic body offices and seven cremation grounds, found that hundreds of deaths linked to the coronavirus did not make it to the official list of Covid-19 fatalities.
Data collected by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) from 26 crematoriums showed 3,096 cremations of Covid-19 victims were conducted between April 18 and April 24, the report said.
But in the same period, the the Delhi government only recorded 1,938 deaths from Covid-19 - indicating that 1,158 deaths may have gone uncounted.
The reason for the mismatch was not yet known.
Discrepancies between official numbers and actual cremations and deaths are seen across districts and states in India, and the government is increasingly facing charges of undercounting or hiding the real numbers.
In addition to recommending not to travel to India, THL reminds that the corresponding recommendation to avoid all trips to Brazil and South Africa is still valid. And it proposes that residents of Finland continue to limit travel abroad to what is strictly necessary.