The number of people with Covid-19 that undertakers in Chattogram have either buried or cremated till now seems to be much higher than what the official count suggests.
According to official figures, 136 people died from Covid-19 in the port city and its adjacent upazilas till June 18. But six funeral service providers received bodies of 627 people, who either tested positive for coronavirus or had coronavirus-like symptoms, from hospitals and homes.
Among the funeral service providers, Al Manahil Foundation received 210 bodies, Quantum Foundation received 110, Corona Mritodeho Shatkar Sangho received 23, Islamic Foundation received 65, Gauchiya Committee received 201 and Shesh Bidayer Bondhu received 18 bodies.
Mawlana Farid Uddin, chairman of Al Manahil Foundation, said, "We began the services after the pandemic hit the city."
Sadek Hossain, general secretary of Gauchiya Committee, said most of the bodies they buried or cremated were of deaths from Covid-19 symptoms.
In Chattogram, only those detected with Covid-19 infections are being included on the list of the dead because most of the people who died with coronavirus symptoms are not being tested, relatives of the victims said.
Doctors said it will be possible to get the real picture if testing is done on the bodies of people who died with symptoms of Covid-19.
A professor at the medicine department of Chattogram Medical College Hospital said samples from most of the dead bodies are not being tested, raising confusion about the actual number of deaths from the novel coronavirus.
Family members of the deceased complained that although many have died with Covid-19 symptoms, their data is not being kept officially.
On June 9, Nazrul Islam, a resident at Chandnaish upazila in the district, died at the Chattogram Metropolitan Hospital with respiratory problems. He had Covid-19 symptoms, but his sample was not collected.
Nazrul Islam's relative Rashedul Islam said, "I have requested the hospital authorities to collect my uncle's sample for a coronavirus test. But they told me that they do not collect samples. He was later buried as a suspected case, following all procedures suggested by the government."
Many other patients have died in different government and private hospitals of Chattogram with Covid-19 symptoms. But it could not be confirmed whether they contracted the virus because samples had not been collected from the dead bodies.
The civil surgeon's office said it is not possible to collect samples from most of the people who died with symptoms. Moreover, the burials of many were done by their respective families, so they could not be tested.
When asked why samples of those who died with coronavirus symptoms is not being tested, Civil Surgeon of Chattogram Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said that only the collected samples are being tested.
However, many families are reluctant to give samples of their dead relatives. The government has given instructions to test samples of all those who died with Covid-19 symptoms.
"Many people died in government and private hospitals with Covid-19 symptoms, but we do not have all figures as many families secretly buried their dead who had symptoms. So, I do agree with the confusion over the number of deaths," he added.
Meanwhile, Anjuman Mufidul Islam, a non-government charity organisation, has buried 105 unidentified bodies in Chattogram since February.
"Most of the bodies came from Chattogram Medical College Hospital and Chattogram General Hospital. Many of them had coronavirus symptoms," said Selim Naser, assistant director of the organisation.