Health ministry refutes under-reporting of Covid-19 pandemic deaths

The on Thursday said India had a robust system of calculating deaths, refuting the recent studies that termed the official Covid-19 death toll as vastly undercounted.

The government statement said age-specific infection fatality rates of US and European countries had been used to calculate excess deaths in India based on the sero-positivity in these studies.

“The extrapolation of deaths has been done on an audacious assumption that the likelihood of any given infected person dying is the same across countries,” it said.

India has officially reported 418,987 deaths from Covid till July 22, the third highest toll in the world.

The said: “Given the robust and statute-based Death Registration System in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of Infectious Disease and its management, missing out on the deaths is unlikely.” It said that the Civil Registration System ensures all the births and deaths in the country get registered.

The ministry said such studies dismissed the interplay between various direct and indirect factors such as race, ethnicity, genomic constitution of a population, previous exposure levels to other diseases, and the associated immunity developed in that population.

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“The reports assume that all the excess mortality figures are Covid deaths, which is not based on facts and totally fallacious. Excess mortality is a term used to describe an all-cause mortality figure and attributing these deaths to Covid-19 is completely misleading,” the statement said.

A recent report by the Washington-based Center for Global Development, co-authored by India’s former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, had said excess during Covid in India could be between 3.4 million and 4.9 million. It did not ascribe the deaths to Covid.

A report published in The Economist in early June said: “The Economist, as well as independent epidemiologists, have speculated that India has suffered perhaps five-to-seven times more “excess deaths” than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities, currently just over 355,000.”

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has refuted these allegations in Parliament and said the government only compiles and publishes data sent by the states.

India follows ICMR guidelines, which are based on WHO-recommended ICD-10 codes for correct recording of all Covid-19 deaths, the ministry said.

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