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The Print misquotes IIT professor just to propagate India bungled up in its response to Covid-19 and ‘underreported’ cases

The Print’s report says that India has missed out on reporting 90 infections on every one reported case. However, it completely failed to mention that the misreporting is because most of these cases were either asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms

The misinformation and misquoting of experts have become a problem, especially when the whole world is struggling against the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently, Manindra Agrawal, a member of the Department of Science and Technology committee and professor at the Department of Computer Science at IIT Kanpur, was misquoted by The Print and Times Now on Covid numbers in their reports.

Manindra Agarwal’s statement on Covid numbers

Agrawal has talked to several media houses explaining their findings on Covid-19 numbers in India. In the conclusion of the Department of Science and Technology committee’s recent findings, the committee found that on an average, 90 patients go unreported in India against every patient of Covid-19 that have been reported positive. The latest findings suggest that there can be several reasons that have shown such results. In theory, based on the findings, it can be concluded that around half of India’s population has already been infected with the virus.

The September report has praised timely lockdown

There can be several reasons such as climate, less vulnerability to diseases in the younger population in India, timely lockdown and more. In September’s report published by Agarwal, it was concluded that if India had not imposed lockdown in March, the severity of the cases in peak months would have been much worse.

“With no lockdown, the pandemic would have hit India very hard, with a peak load of 140+ lakh cases arriving in June. Given our lack of preparedness back then, the healthcare system would have been overwhelmed, leading to many additional deaths. Had India waited until May to impose the lockdown, the peak load of active cases would have been around 50 lakhs by June,” the press release on the report [PDF] said.

By the time India reached its peak, the administration and healthcare system was much more equipped with handling the cases in terms of diagnostics and vital equipment inventories, resulting in better management of the situation. In the case of no lockdown, the deaths would have been around 10 lakh compared to one lakh till the report was published.

The virus is affecting India less severely, said Agarwal

Agrawal has emphasized the fact that it is evident that the virus is affecting India less severely. There could be multiple reasons behind it. The reason so many cases are not reported is that they are not showing any symptoms or showing very mild symptoms that are similar to the common cold. As they are asymptomatic, no testing took place. Agarwal’s tweet threat pointing out the mistake of The Print and Times Now clearly mentioned that both media houses have disregarded the point made by him in their reports.

The Print report

The report by The Print says that India has missed out on reporting 90 infections on every one reported case. However, it completely failed to mention that the misreporting is because most of these cases were either asymptomatic or showed mild symptoms. The report, towards the fag end, did mention that “There are also other factors such as South Asia, Africa in general have been less affected. That could be because of a younger population or there may be other factors at play.” Still, the point that Agrawal had made during the conversation was missed out.

The Times Now report

Time Now’s report majorly relied on the Covid number analysis by The Indian Express. According to the theory, the report did mention that majority of the Indians have already contracted the infection without being aware of it. Still, the reports seem to be suggesting that the number of unreported cases is the ‘missing ones.’ It suggests that the Indian machinery was not capable of reporting the exact number of cases, which is not what Agrawal had suggested.

Agrawal’s reply to misreporting

In a tweet-thread, Agrawal pointed out that the reporter from The Print had called him to discuss the Covid numbers in India. He said he had mentioned that according to their model, our model, only one in 90 cases had been reported. And the unreported ones are primarily due to being asymptomatic. However, this ratio is not uniform across regions.”

He further said that Delhi may have underreported 25 cases on every one reported cases while the number rises to 300 in the case of UP. He said that the reports took his words in a different direction and implicated that the Indian system “somehow goofed up by not detecting them” by replacing his words ‘underreported’ with ‘missed cases’.

Nowhere in the report is the original point made that the virus seems to be affecting India less severely than many other countries (multiple reasons for this have been speculated),” he said and added that he should have been more careful while talking to the reporters.

Agrawal further added that the model he has worked on is based on the public data available on reported cases. “One aspect of our model has been verified: its conclusions for pandemic trajectory have been confirmed by actual progression,” he added. The other aspect, projection of total infections, can only be verified by sero-survey data. However, there have been few surveys, and even for the few that have taken place, there are doubts about the methodology adopted. So these conclusions remain unverified.

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