India’s Covid-19 mortality data higher than official data: Lancet report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on September 06, 2020

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India has so far reported over four million cases of the coronavirus

The Government of India has vouched for India’s high recovery rate that, according to the health ministry, stands at around 77 per cent. However, health experts mentioned in the Lancet report are doubtful of the figures presented by the government.

Lancet has pointed out numerous discrepancies in India’s Covid-19 mortality data.

The medical journal mentioned that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines stipulate that deceased patients with suspected or probable Covid-19 should be included in mortality data. This is based on World Health Organization’s (WHO) ICD-10 codes for Covid-19-related deaths. However, the guidelines are advisory.

Lancet indicated that information about whether state data on deaths include suspected and probable cases are not out in the public domain.

Prashant Mathur, director of the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR), an ICMR body told Lancet, “For Covid-19, we have to throw the net more widely to capture all the deaths (confirmed and suspected) in order to understand the disease better and for its management.”

He added, “It is important to correctly record the cause of deaths. But it is up to individual states to follow these guidelines. As per the existing law, NCDIR is not required to get data about suspected or probable deaths from states so I can't say whether deaths are being certified.”

Another health expert Rijo John, who is public health policy analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for Public Policy Research in Kerala, said some under-reporting is happening in the country.

He told Lancet, “While it is true that only 21 per cent of all deaths are medically certified in India, we should not forget that more than 65 per cent of the total Covid-19 deaths reported in India so far are from only four states, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Delhi. In all these states, the death registration is 100 per cent.”

Another health expert quoted in the Lancet report highlighted that the Integrated Disease Surveillance System is collecting the data on deaths due to Covid-19 from testing laboratories and hospitals. However, it misses deaths due to Covid-19 among those who were not tested.

He further added that in rural India, most people die outside the hospital. Their death registration becomes a timely process due to which under-reporting is happening in these areas.

India has so far reported over four million cases of the virus, with around three million people have recovered, while more than 69,000 people have died of the virus, as per the worldometer report.

Published on September 06, 2020

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