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‘Fallacious and completely inaccurate’: Govt dismisses media reports claiming COVID-19 mortality in India higher than official counts

The Union Health Ministry has also repeatedly underlined the importance of a comprehensive reporting framework for daily monitoring of district-level cases and deaths. "Therefore, to project that COVID deaths have been under-reported is without basis and devoid of justification," the government said in its statement.

The Indian government has on February 17, Thursday released a statement that strongly rejected some media reports claiming a “significant undercounting” of actual COVID-19 deaths in the first two waves.

The statement by the government of India said reports with claims that Covid-19 mortalities in India were much higher than the official count are “fallacious and completely inaccurate.”

“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 that actual numbers have been undercounted…these reports are fallacious and completely inaccurate. They are not based on facts and are speculative in nature,” the statement read.

It informed that India has a robust system of birth and death reporting which is carried out regularly from the Gram Panchayat level to the District-level and State-level.

Debunking the fake news, the Centre further said that the report alleges that between 3.2 million and 3.7 million individuals died in the country from Covid-19 by early November 2021, compared to official figures of 4.6 lakh in November 2021.

The government cleared that it has been pressing states to update their mortality estimates in the event that specific deaths are not reported in a timely manner at the field level, and is thus committed to obtaining the most accurate picture of pandemic-related deaths. Furthermore, it has asked States and Union Territories to register fatalities correctly in compliance with the statutory guidelines through various formal notifications, multiple video conferences, and the deployment of numerous Central teams. The Union Health Ministry has also repeatedly underlined the importance of a comprehensive reporting framework for daily monitoring of district-level cases and deaths. “Therefore, to project that COVID deaths have been under-reported is without basis and devoid of justification,” the government said in its statement.

The govt dismissed media reports based on a published ‘research paper’ that claimed that “Experts believe India’s civil registration system is vulnerable to gaps. The current civil registration system has little interoperability with health information systems, there is potential for gaps in recording of deaths.” It clarified 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.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has produced ‘Guidance for accurate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ to ensure that all deaths are recorded correctly using the ICD-10 codes suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the commencement of the pandemic, the date of cases and deaths related to COVID19 has been made public, and all states, including districts, have released regular bulletins with full details on a daily basis, which are also made public, said the government of India.

The statement added that the Supreme Court of India is keeping a close eye on the entire process, as a result, there’s a far lower chance of COVID deaths being underreported in the country. “Hence, the conclusion that the “undercount” is due to reluctance or inability of families and local authorities is fallacious and far from the truth,” the statement added.

It may be noted that many media houses reported today that India’s Covid mortality is 6 to 8 times higher than official counts.

Report published by The Telegraph on February 17, 2022
Report by Deccan Herald published on February 17, 2022
Report by Daily Hunt published on February 17, 2022

These media reports have been based on an article written by Christophe Guilmoto, a researcher at Centre de Sciences Humaines for a journal PLOS ONE. The author claimed that India had 3.2–3.7 million Covid related deaths between March 2020 and early November 2021, a level that is roughly 7–8 times greater than the official figures.

Interestingly, the paper says that their claim of the number of deaths is based on ‘models’ and estimates, not actual data. Meaning the 3.2 -3.7 million figure is ‘speculation’, not based on actual data.

Leftist and international media’s use of Covid-19 to demonise the Indian govt becomes a pattern

This is, however, not the first time liberal and foreign media outlets have tried to spread false information to undermine India’s fight against the Covid pandemic. In January this year too, there were some media reports claiming a “significant undercounting” of actual COVID-19 deaths in the first two waves. Then too, the govt of India had released a statement clarifying the reports as being false.

Moreover, the PIB said that there is an incentive in India to report coronavirus deaths as they are entitled to monetary compensation. “Hence, the likelihood of underreporting is less,” the government said.

The government’s response was to a news report published in the journal Science which estimated that India’s true death toll between 1 June 2020, and 1 June 2021, could be between 3.1 million and 3.4 million. It said that the data was collected by three different sources and involved a survey of 137,289 adults.

In May last year, The New York Times had also used arbitrarily chosen random numbers to claim that India’s actual Covid-19 infection and deaths are much more. OpIndia had then reported how the entire analysis done in the article was based on ‘estimates’ based on randomly selected numbers, and how it did not explain why and how those estimates were made.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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