Months after forecasting that India will suffer 1.4 to 1.6 million fatalities due to COVID-19 by August 2021, the Institute for Health Medical and Evaluation (IMHE) seems to have tweaked its methodology to arrive at updated projections for COVID-related deaths for the said time period.
In its new estimates, IMHE pegs 1.14 million deaths by COVID-19 in India by August 1, 2021, as per current projection. In the worst case scenario, the model predicts 1.15 million deaths. It is worth noting that the updated figures comes on the heels of a report published in the international medical journal The Lancet, which cited the IHME predictions but tamped down the forecast of 1.6 million deaths to 1 million deaths by August.
Nevertheless, the death projection made by the IHME is still wildly off the mark. For instance, according to current projections, the estimated deaths in India by COVID-19 as of today, i.e June 29, stands at 1.11 million deaths. That’s over 2.8 times the current number of fatalities, which is 3.97 lakhs.
The glaring incongruence in the number of reported deaths vis-a-vis the projected number of fatalities raises questions on the dubious methods employed and intentions of the IHME in arriving at such exaggerated conclusions. Perhaps, the motive of the organisation is not really about projecting the realistic number of COVID-19 related deaths but to show the Modi government in poor light by overstating the projected fatalities.
The COVID-19 situation in India is currently on the mend. The data from across the country indicates that the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak is firmly suppressed and there are fewer daily cases each day. India is also not facing oxygen crisis as it did when the contagion took the country by surprise and spread rapidly in April 2021. The medical capacity, in terms of hospital beds, isolation ward centres, ventilators and other necessary equipment are steadily expanded to stave off the subsequent wave of coronavirus, if and when it arrives.
In addition to this, India is rapidly augmenting its vaccination programme. Since June 21, the day when the central government took charge of the country’s vaccination drive, the daily vaccination numbers have soared dramatically, consistently crossing the 50-lakh mark except on Sunday when most vaccination centres had their weekly off. On Monday this week, India achieved yet another milestone as it surpassed the United States in terms of total COVID-19 vaccine administered. India has so far vaccinated more than 32.5 crores people with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
However, it appears that the death projections from IHME do not account the ground reality. The exaggerated death figures reveal that the IHME may not have factored in all the determinants and instead allowed its prejudice against the Modi government to arrive at the incredulous projections of 1.14 million deaths by August 2021.
IMHE reduces its prediction of COVID-related fatalities in India by August after The Lancet cites its forecast
While this is not the first time that IHME has made estimations that is bereft of logic and rationality. Earlier in May, the dubious model used by the IHME suggested that India would suffer a casualty of 1.4 to 1.6 million deaths by August 2021. Celebrated international medical journal the Lancet then cited the IHME report to peddle its propaganda against the Modi government.
It published an article that was replete with a series of gross inaccuracies in terms of data that can be interpreted by laymen as well. The article said, “India must reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission as much as possible while the vaccine is rolled out. As cases continue to mount, the government must publish accurate data in a timely manner, and forthrightly explain to the public what is happening and what is needed to bend the epidemic curve, including the possibility of a new federal lockdown.”
Even though the IHME suggested that India would witness deaths to the tunes of 1.4 to 1.6 million by August 2021, The Lancet article ratcheted it down to around 1 million deaths. But the fact that The Lancet chose to omit 300,000 deaths to 600,000 deaths from its article shows that even they did not believe the vast exaggerations of the IHME. With The Lancet predicting 1 million deaths in India, the IHME revised its model that curiously changed the expected number of COVID-19 related fatalities to 1.14 million from its previous projection of 1.4 to 1.6 million deaths.
Needless to say, even 1 million figure is a wild hyperbole. There is no valid justification for such a number either given the manner in which they have projected such figures. The IHME projected over 1000 Covid-19 deaths regularly in November 2020 when cases were definitively on the downturn. It did not even bother to reconcile the current data with respect to the reported number of death as of June 29. Clearly, the need to radically rework their model to reflect a more realistic estimations was not a priority for the IHME, which touts itself as the foremost predictor of COVID-19 related trends.
Pandemic profiteer Eric Feigl-Ding, who predicted 5 million deaths by August, is not even an infectious disease expert
Besides The Lancet and the IMHE, others also partook in scare mongering about the forecasted deaths in India due to COVID-19. Amidst the raging bout of resurgent coronavirus outbreak, NDTV invited ‘epidemiologist’ Eric Feigl-Ding to weigh in on the crisis unfolding in India. Eric made a staggering claim that India’s COVID death tally will surpass the 5 million-mark by August 2021.
During the interview with journalist Vishnu Som, Eric Feigl-Ding claimed, “The data in India is very poor. The number of deaths is not being reported properly. India is well on its way to million deaths by August 1.”
But as it turned out, NDTV got a charlatan, who is not even an infectious disease expert to express his opinion about the coronavirus outbreak in the country. According to the Harvard TC Chan School of Public Health, Eric Feigl-Ding is a public health epidemiologist, nutritionist, and health economist. But there is more to him than what meets the common eye. He is also not an infectious disease expert, but a chronic disease epidemiologist.
The 5 million figure is even more preposterous because roughly 2,430,000 would die between Arpil (when Feigl-Ding made the comment) and August and here he was predicting 5 million deaths. Such an enormous number of death would have far reaching social and political implications and there would be anarchy in large parts of the country. But such phenomena were nowhere to be seen.
Eric’s prolific rise as a ‘star expert’ on Coronavirus was uncharacteristic of any health researcher/epidemiologist or scientist. He chanced upon to read a research paper on Coronavirus and predicted the outbreak of a pandemic in January last year. After his meteoric rise to fame, several epidemiologists came forward to question his credentials. Under the condition of anonymity, one epidemiologist told the Chronicle of Higher Education that Eric Feigl-Ding has zero background in infectious disease research.
It appears like a concerted attempt is being made to tarnish India’s international standing by predicting doom and exaggerating the projected COVID-19 related deaths. Be it The Lancet, the IHME, or NDTV back home, the accuracy of the estimation of COVID deaths hardly seems to be an area of concern. All they care about is promoting propaganda against the Modi government.
Currently, the second wave is irrefutably on the decline and vaccinations are ramping up. Therefore, it is certain that the wild exaggerations of Covid-19 death tally will be proven false.