WHO says COVID killed millions in India, nearly ’10 times higher’ than GoI count

Cremation of COVID victims being held at crematorium ground in Delhi. [FPK File Photo]

New Delhi: The Coronavirus could have killed as many as 47.4 lakh people in India in 2020 and 2021, either directly due to infection or through its indirect impact, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

However, the Government of India has refuted the WHO’s use of mathematical model to calculate the number of COVID deaths, saying the “figure is totally removed from reality”.

Contending that the country has an “extremely robust” system of births and deaths registration, the Union health ministry, in its rebuttal, called the WHO’s system of data collection “statistically unsound and scientifically questionable”.

As the health body released its report on Thursday, it said that between January 2020 and December 2021, there were 4.7 million “excess” Covid deaths in India- the maximum number that’s 10 times the official figures and almost a third of COVID deaths globally. The global figure, according to the report, was 15 million- more than double the official figure of 6 million.

In its report WHO said, “Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years”.

“Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society). Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic,” the report read.

WHO also said they chose the mathematical model as many countries “still lack capacity for reliable mortality surveillance and therefore do not collect and generate the data needed to calculate excess mortality”.

As per the statement by GoI, the government has repeatedly objected to the process and methodology adopted by the WHO to calculate the excess deaths, and had sent at least ten letters to the global organisation in this regard. On Thursday, the Government said in a statement, “WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns.”


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