India’s pandemic death toll could be 10x official count, study suggests

New Delhi, Jul 20 (EFE).- The official Covid-19 death toll in India stood at around 400,000 at the end of June 2021 but the reality could be “catastrophically worse,” with estimates of excess deaths in the Asian country during the pandemic being as high as 4 million according to a new research published Tuesday.

Excess mortality is an estimation of the number of deaths from all causes during a crisis that are above normal levels.

Earlier this year, India was overwhelmed by a huge second wave of Covid-19, which pushed the country’s hospitals to the brink amid a shortage of oxygen and medical supplies.

But the official death toll per capita, 0.3%, remained far below that of badly affected countries in Europe and the Americas, which is between 2-3% in some of the worst cases.

The shocking new figures were laid out in a report penned by Arvind Subramanian, the former chief economic advisor of India, Abhishek Anand, a Harvard researcher, and Justin Sandefur from the Center for Global Development, a US think-tank.

“A sense that the official estimates are under-counting deaths is suggested by simple cross-country comparisons,” the research paper said.

Three models of calculation, the first using state-level registration from seven Indian states, the second based on international estimates of age-specific infection fatality rates (IFR) to Indian seroprevalence data and the third an analysis of the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey of over 800,000 individuals suggest excess pandemic deaths range from 3.4 million to 4.9 million.

The authors of the text acknowledge that sturdy estimations of Covid-19 deaths could prove “elusive” but argued that all models suggested the real pandemic death toll was likely “orders of magnitude” greater than the official data.

The findings suggest that the official death toll was particularly underreported during the first wave of Covid-19 in India, which peaked in September 2020.

The research paper pointed out that India was one of the few major economies not to store a database of excess mortality estimates, adding that the new estimates were obtainable thanks to the “heroic” work of journalists and researchers who pushed for accurate data as well as the publication of seroprevalence studies during the second wave.

According to official data as of Tuesday, India has recorded over 31 million coronavirus infections and 414,000 related deaths.

On Tuesday the South Asian country registered 374 Covid deaths and 30,093 fresh infections, the lowest in four months.

However, authorities are trying to accelerate the nationwide vaccination campaign over fears of a third wave, with 412 million vaccine doses administered so far and around 85 million people fully vaccinated out of a population of over 1.3 billion.

The delta variant of the coronavirus, responsible for rapidly expanding waves of infection in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and parts of Western Europe, was first detected in India. EFE


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