Tuesday, July 5, 2022

India Covid death toll highest in world: WHO

India objects; says methodology is questionable

Nearly 4.7 million people died in India because of Covid-19, either directly due to the disease or indirectly due its impact on health systems and the society, said a World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on Thursday.
The number of deaths is 10-times more than given by India’s government, which rejected the WHO’s report.
India has officially recorded 481,486 Covid19 deaths between January 1 2020 and December 31, 2021. Therefore, the WHO estimates put that figure at nearly 10-times the official estimates, and basically imply that India accounts for about a third of the Covid19 deaths across the world.
WHO report pegs the deaths related to Covid19 at 47, 40,894 during 2020 and 2021. It said that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with Covid-19 (described as excess mortality) between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 was approximately 14.9 mn (ranging between 13.3 mn to 16.6 mn) across the globe
Excess mortality includes deaths directly due to Covid19 disease or indirectly due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society. It is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of pandemic based on data from earlier years.
WHO has also released the methodology followed by it to arrive at these numbers. It said the information was either reported directly by the states through official reports and automatic vital registration, or by journalists who obtained death registration information through RTI.
A statement from the Union Health Ministry said India has been ‘consistently objecting’ to the methodology adopted by WHO to project excess mortality estimates based on mathematical models. “Despite India’s objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this modelling exercise, WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns,” the Health Ministry said.
Owing to its large area, diversity and a population of 1.3 billion which witnessed variable severity of the pandemic both across space and time, India consistently objected to the use of “one size fits all” approach and model, which may be applicable to smaller countries but cannot be applicable to India, it said.
In spite of these differences, India continued to collaborate and coordinate with WHO on this exercise and multiple formal communications — 10 times from November 2021 to May 2022 — as well as numerous virtual interactions were held with the global body.
“Despite communicating this data to WHO for supporting their publication, WHO for reasons best known to them conveniently chose to ignore the available data submitted by India and published the excess mortality estimates for which the methodology, source of data, and the outcomes has been consistently questioned by India,” the statement said.
India released the Civil Registration System (CRS) report on births and deaths by the Registrar General of India (RGI) earlier this week.
The Ministry said that the country had informed WHO that in view of the “authentic data” published through the CRS by RGI, mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality numbers for India.
India said that registration of births and deaths in the country is extremely ‘robust’ and is governed by decades old statutory legal framework – Births & Deaths Registration Act, 1969.
“WHO till date has not responded to India’s contention. India has consistently questioned WHO’s own admission that data in respect of seventeen Indian states was obtained from some websites and media reports and was used in their mathematical model. This reflects a statistically unsound and scientifically questionable methodology of data collection for making excess mortality projections in case of India,” the statement said.

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