Reports of higher Covid death toll ‘speculative’: Govt

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 13, 2021

'Unsound analysis of the article is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence,” an official statement said

The government on Saturday contested a report by an unnamed “renowned international magazine” about India suffering ‘five-to-seven times excess deaths’ than the official Covid-19 death toll saying that the article is “speculative” without any basis and its authors seemed 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,” an official statement said. It also said that an internet search of research studies in scientific databases such as Pubmed and Research Gate failed to locate the study which was cited as ‘evidence’ by the publication.

The statement, however, did not name the publication. About two weeks back, New York Times carried a detailed article on how Covid mortality in India was manifold more than what is reported.


However, the government did say that there could be some disparity in numbers. “It’s a well-known fact that there shall always be difference in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as Covid pandemic and well conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources,” it said.

Data correction by States

It was only early this week, Bihar government ‘corrected’ Covid mortality data in the State after it was ordered to do so by the Patna High Court. This correction increased the State’s Covid-19 toll by 72 per cent, all of a sudden. Similarly, since May 1 this year, Maharashtra government added over 9,000 deaths to the Covid tally, taking the total toll well beyond 1-lakh mark. In Delhi, according to media reports, the deaths registered during April and May were three times more than that same period last year, even though the Covid fatality data for the two months did not capture these excess deaths.

The Health Ministry said it has been consistently stressing upon the need for having a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis.

The government also claimed that it has been transparent in its approach to Covid data management. As early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency in number of deaths being reported, the Indian Council of Medical Research issued ‘Guidance for 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. States and UTs have been urged for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines, it said.



Published on June 12, 2021

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