Last year’s Day of the Dead marked a grim milestone. On 1 November, the global death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic passed 5 million. It has now reached 5.5 million. But that figure is a significant underestimate. Demographers, data scientists and public-health experts are striving to narrow the uncertainties for a global estimate of pandemic deaths. These efforts, from journalists, use methods ranging from satellite images of cemeteries to door-to-door surveys and machine-learning computer models that try to extrapolate global estimates from available data. Some official data in this regard are flawed, scientists have found. And more than 100 countries do not collect reliable statistics on expected or actual deaths at all, or do not release them in a timely manner. Several countries, including India, have been accused of trying to hide their actual Covid-19 death toll, so as to save their image and avoid criticism on the global platform.
The recent report goes on to give examples. It said that countries such as the Netherlands, in the initial period of the pandemic, only counted those deaths as Covid toll wherein individuals died in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. On the other hand, another European country, Belgium, included deaths in the community and everyone who died after showing symptoms of the disease, even if they weren’t diagnosed. The report also mentions that the World Mortality Dataset (WMD) lacks excess-death estimates for more than 100 countries, including China, India and many in Africa. That’s because those countries either do not collect death statistics or do not publish them speedily. Excess mortality means the number of extra people who died compared with pre-crisis figures.
The Union health ministry dismissed such news and said a report like this is without any basis and seems to be misinformed.
In June 2021, the Centre had refuted a report by The Economist, according to which the country’s toll due to Covid-19 could be “five-to-seven times” higher than the official numbers that’s been provided. But the Union health ministry dismissed such news and said a report like this “is without any basis and seems to be misinformed.
The researchers found that COVID constituted 29% of deaths from June 2020-July 2021, corresponding to 32 lakh deaths. However 27 lakh death occurred in April-July 2021 (when COVID doubled all-cause mortality). A sub-survey of 57,000 adults showed similar temporal increases in mortality with COVID and non-COVID deaths peaking similarly. Two government data sources found that when compared to pre-pandemic periods, all-cause mortality was 27% higher in 2 lakh health facilities. It was 26% higher in civil registration deaths in ten states; both increases occurred mostly in 2021. The analyses find that India’s cumulative COVID deaths by September 2021 were six to seven times higher. India’s reported COVID death totals are widely believed to be under-reports because of incomplete certification of COVID deaths. Of India’s 10 million deaths estimated by the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) in 2020, over three million were not registered. Over eight million did not undergo medical certification.