- According to the most comprehensive study, excess deaths during a pandemic could be ten times higher than the official COVID-19 toll.
- According to the report, between 34 lakh and 47 lakh people died from the virus between the start of the pandemic and June of this year.
- Although the official death toll of more than 414,000 is third highest in the world, the report adds to growing requests from experts for a thorough nationwide review of deaths.
According to a recent study, the country’s excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic could be as high as 4.9 million, indicating that millions more people died from coronavirus than the official number.
The report, co-authored by former senior economic adviser Arvind Subramanian and published by the Washington-based Center for Global Development, includes deaths from all causes from the start of the pandemic until June of this year.
Although the official death toll of more than 414,000 is third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil, the report adds to increasing requests from experts for a thorough nationwide investigation of fatalities.
Official figures show that a dramatic surge in infections in April and May, mostly due to the more contagious and lethal Delta variant, swamped the hospital system and killed at least 170,000 people in May alone.
“What is painfully obvious is that millions, rather than hundreds of thousands, of individuals may have died,” the report concluded, estimating 3.4 million to 4.9 million extra deaths during the pandemic.
However, it did not attribute all of the excess deaths to the pandemic.
The authors noted, “We focus on all-cause mortality and estimate increased mortality relative to a pre-pandemic baseline, adjusting for seasonality.”
The ministry of health did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Reuters.
According to some researchers, the best method for determining the actual toll of COVID-19 is to count the number of deaths that occur as a result of the virus.
“It’s necessary for every country to capture excess mortality – it’s the only way to prepare the health system for future shocks and prevent extra deaths,” said Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, on Twitter.
According to the New York Times, the most generous estimate of deaths in India was 600,000 people, with the worst-case scenario exceeding a million. Those figures have been dismissed by the government.
Health experts attribute the undercounting to a lack of resources in India’s vast hinterland, which is home to two-thirds of the country’s population of almost 1.4 billion people, as well as many fatalities that go unnoticed at home.
The country has seen a drop in daily infections since a peak in May, with 30,093 new cases registered on Tuesday, the lowest daily total in four months.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been criticized for a messy vaccine effort, which many believe contributed to the spread of the second wave of diseases.
Only about 8% of adult Indians who are eligible have received both vaccination doses.
On average, the government delivered less than 4 million daily doses in July, down from a high of 9.2 million on June 21, when Prime Minister Modi launched a free vaccination programme for all 950 million adults.