'Fallacious': Govt on Reports of India's 'Vastly Undercounted' COVID Death Toll

Missing out on deaths is unlikely, the health ministry said in its statement on Thursday.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Image used for representational purposes only.</p></div>

India's health ministry on Thursday, 22 July, refuted recent media reports which alleged that the country's COVID-19 death count was 'vastly undercounted' and said that such reports 'assume that all the excess mortality figures are COVID deaths, which is not based on facts and totally fallacious'.

Given the robust and statute-based Death Registration System in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of Infectious Disease and its management, missing out on deaths is unlikely, the government added in its statement on Thursday.

The health ministry said that the news reports in question quoted findings from some recent studies and also used US and European countries’ age-specific infection fatality rates to calculate excess deaths in India based on the sero-positivity.

The extrapolation of deaths has been done on an audacious assumption that the likelihood of any given infected person dying is the same across countries, dismissing the interplay between various direct and indirect factors such as race, ethnicity, genomic constitution of a population, previous exposure levels to other diseases and the associated immunity developed in that population.
Health ministry statement

The government also said that the reporting of daily new cases and deaths in India follows a bottom-up approach, where districts report the number of cases and deaths to the state governments and to the Union Ministry on a continuous basis.

"The Union Health Ministry has been repeatedly advising states and UTs through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through deployment of Central teams for recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines. The Health Ministry has also regularly emphasised the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district wise cases and deaths on a daily basis," the statement further read.

The government also said that states have been advised to conduct thorough audits in their hospitals and report any cases or deaths that could have been missed.

"In addition to this reporting, the robustness of statute based Civil Registration System (CRS) ensures all the births and deaths in the country get registered," a system which the government said ensures no deaths are missed out.

Health Minister's Statement in Rajya Sabha

The statement also referred to the statement by Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in the Rajya Sabha wherein he refuted allegations that the Centre was hiding COVID-19 deaths and stated that the central government only compiles and publishes data sent by the state governments.

Responding to allegations about the fudging of data related to COVID-19 numbers, the health minister had noted in Rajya Sabha, "The Centre compiles and publishes the data sent in by state governments. Our work is to publish that data, and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show less numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases."

Mandaviya further stated that the Centre has 'never done politics over the pandemic'.

"Our government has always said that this crisis shouldn't become a reason for politics. There shouldn't be politics in this crisis... PM Modi has said that when 130 crore people of India take one step forward, the country can move forward by 130 crore steps," Mandaviya was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

(With inputs from ANI)

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