While there is little doubt that India’s official Covid-19 death toll is an undercount, as is the case with probably most other countries, the “excess mortality” figures released by the World Health Organisation Thursday raise several questions.
The WHO’s estimate of 47.4 lakh Covid-related deaths in India in 2020 and 2021 flies in the face of overall death data, historical trends in death reporting, and Covid death compensation claims from states.
If, indeed, the WHO numbers are taken at face value, that would imply India missed 90 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in the first two years of the pandemic – and possibly millions of deaths were not even recorded.
Significantly past data shows that India records over 90 per cent of all its deaths. Several population scientists The Indian Express has spoken to in the last few weeks said missing such a large number of deaths was “extremely unlikely”.
WHO: 47.4 lakh India Covid deaths, nearly 10 times official count
COVID COULD have killed as many as 47.4 lakh people in India in 2020 and 2021, either directly due to infection or through its indirect impact, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday. The figure, disputed by India, is nearly ten times the country’s official Covid death toll of 4.81 lakh at the end of 2021.
In its report on excess deaths due to Covid, WHO said that an estimated 1.5 crore people are likely to have succumbed to the direct or indirect impact of the disease globally during the first two years of the pandemic — instead of the 54 lakh that have been recorded officially by countries separately.
For India, the WHO said about 8.3 lakh deaths are estimated to have happened in 2020 itself.