A group of American researchers warned that the actual number of deaths caused by covid-19 in India could be up to ten times higher than the almost 415,000 registered in the official balance. According to specialists from the Center for Global Development in a study, that figure would be between 3.4 and 4.7 million people since the beginning of the pandemic.
Although different experts have long warned that the balance is widely underestimated in this country of 1.3 billion inhabitants, the figure calculated by the Center for Global Development is the highest presented so far.
“The actual deaths are likely to be several million, not hundreds of thousands, which would make this the India’s biggest humanitarian tragedy since independence“, said the researchers, who took into account the dramatic increase in cases and deaths between April and May that occurred in India since the Delta variant expansion of the coronavirus, identified there for the first time.
According to specialists, the errors in the official balance of deaths from coronavirus in India, which shows a total of 414,000 deaths – making it the third country with the most deaths after the United States (609,000) and Brazil (542,000) -, It is not due to deliberate manipulation but is related to the high levels of stress in the health services, which are saturated.
An example of the latter is the delay in uploading data, since in recent weeks several Indian states reviewed their balance sheets and added thousands of late deaths.
The Center for Global Development research, involving Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic adviser to the Indian government, as well as a Harvard expert, was based on study “excess mortality”, that is, the number of additional deaths compared to the period prior to the health crisis.
Although the study authors acknowledged that calculating mortality with statistical reliability is difficult, they noted that in “all estimates suggest that the death toll of the pandemic is of a magnitude much greater than the official count “.
Christophe Guilmoto, a demographer at the Development Research Institute, recently estimated in another study that the death toll was close to 2.2 million at the end of May.
Guilmoto observed that the death rate (per million population) in India was 50% lower than the world average. “Such a low figure is in obvious contradiction to the severity of the crisis that affected most of the Indian families in the country, which was reflected in the dramatic shortage of vaccines, covid-19 tests, ambulances, access to medical personnel, hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and, finally, coffins, wood, priests, cremation or burial places, as has been widely reported in the Indian and international media, “the expert warned.
The Indian Health Ministry, for its part, continues to support the officially announced figures and a month ago criticized The Economist magazine, which it accused of publishing a “speculative” and “misinformed” note in which it claimed that the excess mortality was between five and seven times higher than the figures provided by the Ministry.
The underreporting of deaths, however, would not be a problem unique to India. In May of this year, the World Health Organization assured that up to three times more people died in the world during the pandemic (from coronavirus or other causes) than indicated in official statistics.