Representational image (Source: Reuters)
Centre has trashed an international media report which claimed that India's actual COVID-19 death toll is five to seven times higher than the official count. The report is "misinformed", "speculative" and based on "unsound analysis", government said on June 12.
Although the Centre did not name the international publication, it appeared to be a veiled reference towards The Economist. The magazine, in a report published on June 12, claimed that the official death toll numbers in India "represent a disturbingly small fraction of the real figure", and the actual count could be "some six times higher".
Categorically denying the claims made in the report, the Centre said it has been "transparent" in releasing data related to COVID-19, including mortality figures, since the start of the pandemic.
"It is noted that a renowned international magazine in its article has speculated that ‘India has suffered perhaps five-to-seven times excess deaths than the official number of COVID-19 fatalities’. It is a speculative article, which is without any basis and seems to be misinformed," said a statement issued by the Union Health Ministry.
"The unsound analysis of the said article is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence," the statement added.
The Union Health Ministry further pointed out that "the so called evidence" cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. "An internet search of research studies in scientific database such Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine," it said.
Another evidence given is the study done in Telengana based on insurance claims. "Again, there is no peer reviewed scientific data available on such study," the government said.
"By their own submission, the magazine states that ‘such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such things as obituaries’," the statement further added.
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The Centre also noted that states and union territories were, back in May 2020, issued guidance for appropriate recording of COVID-19-related deaths in accordance to the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Union Health Ministry has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district wise cases and deaths on a daily basis, the government said, adding that states consistently reporting lower number of daily deaths were told to re-check their data.
"A case in point is the Union government writing to the state of Bihar to provide detailed date and district wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to Union Health Ministry," the Centre pointed out.
The government also noted that that there shall always be difference in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as COVID pandemic, "and well conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources". The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality, it added.