The health ministry has refuted media reports claiming that India’s COVID-19 mortality is higher than official counts. It called the reports ill-informed and speculative and said that India has a transparent and robust system of recording COVID-19 deaths.
The union health ministry today refuted reports about India’s COVID-19 mortality count being much higher than the official figures given out by the government.
The report cites a research paper according to which actual numbers have been under-counted. The study estimates that people between 3.2 million to 3.7 million have died from COVID19 by early Nov 2021 in the country, as compared to official figures of November 2021 of 0.46 million.
“India has a robust system of reporting deaths including COVID-19 deaths that is compiled regularly at different levels of governance starting from the level of the village local government to the district-level and state level,” the health ministry said, adding that the reporting of deaths is regularly done in a transparent manner.
In its statement released today, the ministry said that all deaths are compiled by the centre after being independently reported by the state governments. It says that the government has a comprehensive definition to classify COVID-19 deaths based on globally acceptable categorization.
Saying that projecting COVID-19 deaths have been under-reported is without basis and devoid of justification, the health ministry says.
The study quoted in the media reports has taken four distinct sub-populations — the population of Kerala, Indian Railways employees, legislators, parliamentarians and school teachers in Karnataka. It uses a triangulation process to estimate nationwide deaths.
“Any such projections based on limited data sets and certain specific assumptions must be treated with extreme care before extrapolating the numbers by putting all states and country of the size of India in a single envelope,” the health ministry said.
In its statement, the health ministry has argued, “This exercise runs the risk of mapping skewed data of outliers together and is bound to give wrong estimations thereby leading to fallacious conclusions.” It says that the justification that the study has credence since its findings/estimates are in convergence with another study defies logic and highlights bias on the part of the study’s authors.
The health ministry says that the whole process is being continuously monitored by the country’s supreme court and, so, the “likelihood of under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in the country is significantly less.”
The ministry has dismissed the conclusion of the research authors that the “undercount” is due to reluctance or inability of families and local authorities. It says that this is “fallacious and far from the truth.”
To the media reports claiming that “experts believe India’s civil registration system is vulnerable to gaps. The current civil registration system has little interoperability with health information systems, there is potential for gaps in recording of deaths,” the ministry claims that the government has followed a transparent approach regarding COVID-19 data management that is based on a robust system of recording all COVID-19 related deaths.
The government iterated that the date of cases and deaths due to COVID-19 are being put in public domain on a daily basis since start of the pandemic, and similarly all states, including districts, are releasing regular bulletins with all details on a daily basis which is also in public domain.
Further, it says that there is added push in India to capture and report all COVID-19 deaths due to the entitlement to monetary compensation to the next of kin of each and every person dying of COVID-19.