India’s Health Ministry terms The Economist’s report over Covid-19 deaths in India as ‘unsound analysis’ and speculation

| SamvadaWorld Staff

A report in The Economist on Saturday claimed that India has suffered perhaps five to seven times excess Covid-19 deaths than the official data, the Indian government on Saturday categorically stated that the claims are completely baseless and termed the report as ‘speculative’.

The article titled, “More evidence emerges of India’s true death toll from Covid-19”, claimed surveys by Economist had estimated that the number of Covid-19 deaths in India is around six times higher.

The so-called research article cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by a person named Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. In the article, the research claimed that based on excess mortality rates, the pandemic-related mortality through the first 19 weeks of 2021 in the six Indian regions was 131.5 to 181.8 per 100,000 population.

The report extrapolated the rates and said “If these rates apply to India as a whole, then between 1.78 to 2.46 million people may have perished in India as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic by the 19th week of 2021. This mortality exceeds the known mortality in every other country in the world.”

Health Ministry terms it ‘baseless speculation’

The Union Health Ministry in an official statement refuted the so-called survey and findings over higher deaths in the Economist article. The statement said that the article estimating higher deaths in India than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities was nothing but speculation and said that such a report has no basis. The government said that the author seems to be misinformed.

“The unsound analysis of the said article is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. Studies which are used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality are not validated tools for determining mortality rate of any country or region,” the statement further said.

The Indian government also reiterated it follows ICMR guidelines as recommended by WHO to avoid any inconsistency regarding the number of Covid-19 related fatalities.

Asserting that the Indian government has been following a transparent approach to record Covid-19 related data, the Health Ministry said it follows the Indian Council of Medical Research’s guidelines for recording COVID deaths as recommended by WHO.

“As early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, Indian Council of Medical Research has issued ‘Guidance for the appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths as per ICD-10 codes recommended by WHO for mortality coding,” the Government of India said in its rebuttal.

Further, it stated that “States and UTs have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines”. Union Health Ministry also said that they also regularly emphasised the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district wise cases and deaths daily.

“States consistently reporting lower number of daily deaths were told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the State of Bihar to provide detailed date and district wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to Union Health Ministry,” it said in a statement.

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