It is estimated that India experienced an excess of 3.4 to 4.9 million deaths during the COVID pandemic. This is according to a new report, which suggests that millions more people died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus than had previously been reported. According to the report, which was released on Tuesday (July 22), Arvind Subramanian, a former Indian chief economic adviser, Justin Sandefur, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in the United States, and Abhishek Anand, a professor at Harvard University, were all co-authors.
According to the authors, “Estimating COVID-deaths with statistical confidence may prove difficult; however, all estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000.” As the authors of the report point out, “True deaths are likely to number in the several millions rather than hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence.”
According to their estimates, between January 2020 and June 2021, an additional 3.4 million to 4.9 million deaths will occur. Excess deaths are deaths that are recorded during a pandemic that are not recorded during a corresponding period in pre-pandemic years. Excess deaths could be a potential indicator of undercounting in India’s COVID toll, which is currently unknown.
The official COVID-19 tally for India was 4,18,480 (4.18 lakh) on Wednesday, making it the world’s third-highest after the United States and Brazil.
Noting that there is no reliable estimate of the death toll from Covid in India, the researchers based their estimate of excess mortality on three different data sources from the beginning of the pandemic through June of this year, from the beginning of the pandemic to June of this year. First and foremost, the extrapolation of state-level civil registration of deaths from seven states was performed…. This implies a total of 3.4 million extra deaths. Second, the researchers used Indian seroprevalence data to apply international estimates of age-specific infection fatality rates (IFR) to the data on Indian seroprevalence. This implies a higher death toll of approximately 4 million people.
IFR determines the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases that have been identified and allows for the estimation of excess deaths. Third, the researchers examined data from the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey (CPHS), which polled over 800,000 people from across the country in one survey. This results in an estimated 4.9 million excess deaths, according to the estimates. The researchers stated that they do not favour any particular estimate because each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
After a devastating second wave that began in March and is believed to have been triggered by the more transmissible Delta variant, India is still struggling to recover. The results of the analysis also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than previously thought. By the end of March this year, when the second wave began, India had an official death toll of more than 150,000 people (1.5 lakh). Several experts have expressed scepticism about India’s official death toll, pointing the finger at the country’s death-counting procedures rather than at deliberate misinformation.
Due to the fact that official figures do not accurately reflect reality, it is necessary to employ indirect methods such as an estimation of excess deaths due to all causes over the course of the pandemic, according to Gautam Menon, professor at Ashoka University in Haryana’s Departments of Physics and Biology. “The analysis leads to a broad range of possible values, ranging from an undercounting by a factor of 3 at the lower end to an undercounting by a factor of 10 at the upper end, and all evidence suggests that the actual value lies within this range,” Menon, who has been a part of several COVID-19 modelling studies, told PTI. “The analysis leads to a broad range of possible values, ranging from an undercounting by a factor of 3 at the lower end to an
In his opinion, the relatively low official COVID-19 mortality numbers reported at the end of the first wave were likely responsible for a sense of “Indian exceptionalism” and, as a result, a corresponding slackening of the required vigilance, which contributed to the devastating second wave. According to the researchers, “their findings highlight the importance of having accurate and timely mortality estimates, as well as the need to reconsider and restructure our approach to how such data is collected.” At some points, the uncertainties in the data overwhelm the calculation.
Using the example of mortality impact estimation between the first and second waves, Menon explained that different methods produce qualitatively, rather than quantitatively, different results. As a result, he stated that he would tend to lean towards the more conservative end of the estimate provided in the United States report. Murad Banaji, a senior lecturer in mathematics at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom, concurred.
Banaji responded to the findings by saying, “While we cannot be certain that total excess deaths have been ten times higher than recorded COVID-19 deaths, even the most conservative estimates suggest that there have been approximately 2.5 million excess deaths to date, roughly six times the official COVID-19 death count,” according to PTI.
It is suggested in the report, according to Banaji, who has been studying India’s COVID-19 mortality figures, that India has experienced a spike in deaths that is many times greater than the official COVID-19 death toll.
While acknowledging that it is difficult to determine how many of the excess deaths are due to COVID-19, he went on to say that epidemiological and international data indicate that the disease is likely to be responsible for a significant portion of the excess mortality.
“We can confidently state that India has only counted a small fraction of its COVID-19 deaths to date; in fact, it is very likely that India has recorded fewer than one in every five of its COVID-19 deaths to date,” the authors write.
According to Banaji, the most important conclusion to be drawn from the report is that, while mortality has been high, disease surveillance and transparency have been extremely poor.
It was discovered that “weak death recording, along with dishonest and misleading narratives around mortality, have hampered efforts to understand and predict the course of COVID-19 in India, contributing to complacency and mismanagement of the country’s second wave of the epidemic.”
Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, stated on Tuesday that it is critical for every country to capture excess mortality.
This is also why we need to invest in strong civil registration and vital statistics, so that policies can be adjusted based on real data, she said in a Twitter post. ” — only way to prepare the health system for future shocks & to prevent further deaths.”
Because Maharashtra was conducting a data reconciliation exercise on Wednesday, the number of coronavirus fatalities increased by 3,998 and the number of new cases increased by 42,015, according to the Union Health Ministry. While the death toll has risen to 4,18,480, the number of cases has increased to 3,12,16,337 (3.12 crore/31.2 million), with a daily positivity rate of 2.27 per cent — the rate has been less than three per cent for 30 days in a row.