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India's COVID Death Toll Spikes as Maharashtra Adds 3.5K Deaths in Revised Data

According to a study, underreported figures are indicative of deaths from all causes and not just COVID.

Updated
India
2 min read
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India reported a big jump in daily COVID deaths on Wednesday, 21 July, after Maharashtra government revised it COVID death count, reported NDTV.

The state reported 3,507 “old deaths” that had not been reported earlier. A total 489 deaths were reported from other states in India.

This is not the first time that Maharashtra has revised its fatality data, which resulted in a jump in the death toll. According to an India Today report dated 14 June, the state government reported 2,771 deaths, of which 2,288 were “old deaths”.

Non-COVID deaths have also been underreported in India, according to a new study, which suggests that millions more have died since the beginning of the pandemic than the official toll by the Centre.

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A study by Washington-based Centre for Global Development includes deaths from all causes since the start of the pandemic till June 2021. However, the study does not assign all excess deaths to COVID. According to the authors of the study, the figures are indicative of deaths from all causes and “estimate excess mortality relative to a pre-pandemic baseline, adjusting for seasonality.”

The report utilised three different data sources to estimate excess deaths. First, state-level civil administration data; second, application of international estimates of age-specific infection rate to India’s published seroprevalence data, and the third: an analysis of the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey, which polled 8,00,000 individuals across seven states.

“All estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000; they also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than is believed,” read the report.

“Given all the difficulties, getting at the true estimate will be difficult and only by piecing together data from different sources will we improve our understanding of the reality of the pandemic.”

A New York Times report published on 25 May also suggested that the official COVID death count in India grossly under represents the true scale of the pandemic in India.

From the numbers NYT deduced, almost half of India’s population, which is 68.32 crore people, may have contracted COVID in the past year, a number which is a far cry from the 27.5 crore that the Centre reported in May 2021.

The NYT report also pointed out that undercounting of deaths was expected to be more prominent in a country like India "for technical, cultural and logistical reasons. Because hospitals are overwhelmed, many COVID deaths occur at home, especially in rural areas, and are omitted from the official count."

According to MoHF figures, as of 21 July, India has 4,07,170 active COVID-19 cases and 4,18,480 deaths. According to the COWin dashboard, a total of 41,0486,847 doses of COVID vaccine have been administered till date, of which only 8,52,08,990 are second doses.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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