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Missing Out on Covid-19 Deaths ‘Unlikely’, Health Min Refutes Reports on Undercounted Fatalities

“Given the robust and statute-based death registration system in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of Infectious Disease and its management, missing out on the deaths is unlikely,” Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Health workers wearing protective suits carry the body of a COVID-19 victim, as coronavirus cases surge in record numbers countrywide, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, Friday, April 23, 2021.
Health workers wearing protective suits carry the body of a COVID-19 victim, as coronavirus cases surge in record numbers countrywide, April 23, 2021. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday refuted reports and studies suggesting Indian authorities may have undercounted the Covid-19 deaths in the ongoing pandemic and added that missing out on the deaths was unlikely.

The ministry referred to some recent media reports alleging that India’s toll of excess deaths during the pandemic could be in millions, terming the official Covid-19 death toll as ‘vastly undercounted’.

“In these news reports quoting findings from some recent studies, US & European countries’ age-specific infection fatality rates have been used to calculate excess deaths in India based on the sero-positivity,” the statement read.

The government in its reaction called these reports ‘totally fallacious’ and added that the extrapolation of deaths has been done on an ‘audacious assumption’ that any given infected person can die across countries, dismissing the interplay between various direct and indirect factors such as race, ethnicity, genomic constitution of a population, previous exposure levels to other diseases and the associated immunity developed in that population.

The reports assume that all the excess mortality figures are Covid deaths, which is not based on facts and totally fallacious

READ MORE: Covid-19 May Have Killed Over 3.4 Million People in India, Says US Think-Tank

“Given the robust and statute-based death registration system in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of Infectious Disease and its management, missing out on the deaths is unlikely,” the statement read.

Excess mortality is a term used to describe an all-cause mortality figure and attributing these deaths to COVID-19 is completely misleading.

The Health Ministry further clarified that the case fatality rate, on December 31, 2020 stood at 1.45 per cent and even after an unexpected surge observed in the second wave in April-May 2021, the case fatality rate floated around 1.34 per cent. The Ministry also said that India has a robust contact tracing strategy and samples are tested and new cases detected through ‘gold standard’ RT-PCR tests.

“All the primary contacts, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic are tested for Covid-19. The true detected cases are the ones that test positive with RT PCR, which is the gold standard of the Covid-19 test. In addition to the contacts, given the vast availability of more than 2700 testing laboratories in the country, anyone who wants to get tested is able to get the test done. This coupled with vast IEC about the symptoms and access to medical care has ensured people could reach out to hospitals in case of need,” the Ministry said.

It further added that India follows a bottom-up approach, where districts report the number of cases and deaths to the State Governments and to the Union Ministry on a continuous basis. In order to avoid inconsistency or confusion in the number of deaths being reported, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued ‘Guidance for appropriate recording of Covid-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths by States/UTs as per ICD-10 codes recommended by WHO for mortality coding.

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