According to the most comprehensive study of the spread of the virus in South Asian countries, India’s excess death toll during the pandemic may be 10 times the official COVID-19 death toll, which may make it the worst human tragedy in modern India.

Most experts believe that India’s official death toll of more than 414,000 people is greatly underestimated, but the government considers these concerns to be exaggerated and misleading.

The report released on Tuesday estimated that between January 2020 and June 2021, the number of excess deaths (the gap between the recorded number and the expected number) was between 3.4 million and 4.7 million. It said that the exact number may be “elusive”, but the true number of deaths “is likely to be an order of magnitude larger than official statistics.”

This Report published by Arvind Subramanian, The former chief economic adviser of the Indian government, and two other researchers from the Global Development Center, a non-profit think tank based in Washington, and Harvard University.

It said the count may miss deaths that occurred in overwhelmed hospitals or when medical services were interrupted, especially during the devastating virus surge earlier this year.

The worst tragedy since the split of India

The report said: “The real death toll may be millions instead of hundreds of thousands. This is arguably India’s worst human tragedy since its division and independence.”

The British-ruled Indian subcontinent split into independent India and Pakistan in 1947, resulting in the killing of as many as 1 million people because Hindus and Muslim groups killed each other.

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A Canadian expert said that the overall conclusion of the report may be correct, but there are problems with its methods.

“They did their best,” Prabhat Jha, a doctor and epidemiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said in an interview with CBC News. “They ended up causing a lot of deaths, far more than 3 million people, but they ended up [the] It is unbelievable to think that the first wave of virus in September last year was larger than the current virus wave from April to May or April to June. “

He said the researchers included data from unreliable sources, which would lead the Indian government to fight back against their findings.

Dr. Prabhat Jha is the director of the Global Health Research Center at St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor of epidemiology at the Dalarana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. (Unity Health Toronto)

Despite this, Jaha said he agreed that India’s death toll was much higher than 400,000, which he said means that the death rate in the country is about one-eighth of the death rate in the United States.

“No one really seriously believes that India’s infection mortality rate is so low.”

The report on the number of deaths from the virus in India uses three calculation methods: data from the civil registration system that records the number of births and deaths in seven states, blood tests showing that the virus is prevalent in India, and global COVID-19 death rates, and a response to nearly 900,000 People do it three times a year.

Researchers do warn that each method has weaknesses, such as economic surveys ignoring the cause of death.

Therefore, the researchers also studied deaths caused by various causes and compared the data with the mortality rates of previous years.

The researchers also warned that the prevalence of the virus and the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the seven states they studied may not translate to the whole of India, because the virus may spread more in urban and rural states, and health care across India The quality varies greatly.

This drone image shows that on April 28, 2021, New Delhi is preparing a site for mass cremation of COVID-19 victims. (Siddiqui, Denmark/Reuters)

It is believed that other countries have also underestimated the death toll from the pandemic. But India is considered to have a bigger gap because it has the world’s second-highest population of 1.4 billion, and not all deaths were recorded before the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to the Associated Press’s request for comment on the report.

Dr. Jacob John studied the virus at Vellore Christian Medical School in southern India, but was not involved in the study. He reviewed the Associated Press report and stated that it highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s poorly prepared health system. The devastating impact of the

Jacob said: “This analysis reiterates the observations of other fearless investigative reporters who emphasize the massive underestimation of the death toll.”

‘Collective complacency’

The report also estimated that nearly 2 million Indians died during the first surge in infections last year, and stated that the lack of “real-time grasp of the scale of the tragedy” may “bred up the horror of collective complacency that led to the surge earlier this year.” .

In the past few months, some states in India have increased the number of deaths from COVID-19 after finding thousands of previously unreported cases, which has raised concerns about more deaths that are not officially recorded.

Several Indian journalists also used government data to release higher numbers for some states. Scientists say this new information is helping them better understand how COVID-19 is spreading in India.

On July 5, 2021, health care workers take care of a patient at the Nesco Jumbo COVID-19 Center in Mumbai. (Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)

Murad Banaji, who studies mathematics at Middlesex University and has been studying COVID-19 mortality data in India, said recent data confirms some suspicions of underestimation. Banagher said the new data also showed that the virus is not limited to urban centers. As contemporary reports have shown, Indian villages have also been severely affected.

“One question we should ask is whether some of these deaths can be avoided,” he said.


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