Reports claiming Covid mortality higher than official counts are ill informed: Ministry

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Union Health Ministry on Thursday said that reports claiming that Covid-19 mortality is higher than the official counts are ill informed and speculative.

“There have been some media reports based on a published research paper alleging that mortality due to Covid-19 in India is much higher than the official count and actual numbers have been undercounted. The study estimates that people between 3.2 million and 3.7 million have died of Covid by early November 2021 in the country, as compared to official figures of November 2021 of 0.46 million (4.6 lakhs)”, said health ministry in a statement.

“As has been stated earlier for similar media reports, it is again clarified that these reports are fallacious and completely inaccurate. They are not based on facts and are speculative in nature”.

The ministry said that India has a robust system of reporting deaths, including Covid-19 deaths that is compiled regularly at different levels of governance starting from the Gram Panchayat level to the district-level and state level. All deaths are compiled by the Centre after being independently reported by states.

“Based on globally acceptable categorisation, Government of India has a comprehensive definition to classify Covid deaths which has been shared with the states who are following it. Union Health Ministry has also regularly emphasised the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. Therefore, to project that Covid deaths have been under-reported is without basis and devoid of justification”, the ministry added.

The ministry has further said that the study quoted in the media reports has taken four distinct subpopulations — the population of Kerala, Indian Railways employees, MLAs and MPs, and school teachers in Karnataka — and uses 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.

This exercise runs the risk of mapping skewed data of outliers together and is bound to give wrong estimations thereby leading to fallacious conclusions. The sheer justification that the study has credence since its findings, estimates are in convergence with another study is baffling, defies logic and highlights the bias with which the article has been written.

Highlighting the reports which claim that experts believe India’s civil registration system is vulnerable to gaps, the ministry said: “It is reiterated that the Union Government has followed a transparent approach regarding Covid data management and a robust system of recording all Covid-19 related deaths already exists.

“In order to avoid inconsistency in number of deaths being reported, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has issued ‘Guidance for appropriate recording of Covid-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths as per ICD-10 codes recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO)”.

The date of cases and deaths due to Covid 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, it said further.

The ministry has also said 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 deceased person. This whole process is being continuously monitored by the the Supreme Court. Therefore, likelihood of underreporting of Covid deaths in the country is significantly less, added the ministry.

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