The actual number of COVID-19 deaths in India could be 10 times higher than the official death toll reported by Indian authorities, according to a US research group. The study suggests that between 3.4 million and 4.7million more people have died than expected between January 2020 and June 2021.
The study done by the US-based Centre for Global Development and suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst humanitarian disaster in India since Independence.
The second wave of coronavirus hit India in March and caused massive devastation. It brought India's healthcare system to its knees and several people died on the streets, outside hospital gates, because of the unavailability of oxygen and beds.
Massive Undercount In The First Wave
However, according to the report, the researchers have concluded that the first wave was more lethal than is widely believed. Around 2 million people died in the first wave itself, the study said. Arvind Subramaniam, former chief economic advisor to the Centre and co-author of the report, said that due to the undercounting of deaths, there was a sense that India had escaped the worst and therefore this led tocomplacency. However, the "horrendous image" of the second wave is what startled Indian society to dig deep into the numbers.
According to the Times of India, India's official death count due to COVID-19 is just over 4,14,00, making it the third-highest globally after the US with 609,000 and Brazil with 542,000. However, the experts have doubted the numbers for months. "True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands," the researchers said. They have blamed the stressed healthcare service in the country rather than deliberate misinformation. Following public pressure, many Indian states have corrected their COVID-19 related numbers in recent weeks, adding the backlog of death counts.
How The Study Was Done?
The study that analysed the date from the start of the pandemic to June 2021 has considered three different data sources to piece together the study. It analysed births and deaths across seven states, global COVID fatality rates, and a recurring national economic survey of nearly 900,000 people carried out three times a year, reported The Guardian.
Excess deaths are calculated on how many more people are dying within a given period than usual. All excess deaths during the pandemic would not be due to the virus, but a significant proportion was due to the coronavirus. The researchers acknowledged that estimating deaths with statistical confidence was difficult. However, all estimates suggested that the death toll from the pandemic is greater than the official count.
Christophe Guilmoto, a specialist in Indian demography at France's Research Institute of Development, estimated that India's death toll was close to 2.2 million by late May. His team also concluded that in India, only one in seven COVID deaths was recorded. A US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation study also estimated that India's death toll could be more than 1.25 million.
However, the Health Ministry has dismissed such reports. It slammed The Economist magazine for publishing a story that said India's death toll was five to seven times higher than the official count. The ministry called the report "speculative" and "misinformed".