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What Is the True Scale of COVID-19 Pandemic in India?

According to an NYT report, almost half of India’s population, which is 68.32 crore, may have contracted COVID.

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How many people have died due to COVID-19 in India? The official figures as of Friday, 28 May, stand at 3,18,895 but a New York Times report has ruffled feathers by suggesting that this number grossly under-represents the true state of the pandemic in India.

The report from Tuesday, 25 May, studied three national serosurveys conducted in India over the course of the pandemic. The first survey was conducted from 11 May to 3 June. The second from 18 August to 20 September and the last from 18 December to 6 January.

From those numbers which 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 is reporting.

The report also states that in the most conservative scenario, the death toll is 6,00,000, almost two times the current toll.

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Not surprisingly, the Centre trashed the NYT report, calling it “baseless” and “not backed by any evidence and is based on distorted estimates”.

The question of the total death count due to COVID has emerged again, as rural India is starting to show a spike in cases. Even as there is an enormous scarcity of medical resources, from hospital beds to oxygen to testing kits.

If accurate data is scarce and difficult to access from metro cities, it is almost non-existent in rural India, where the situation is dire. So, do we have the true picture of India’s pandemic situation?

In today’s episode, we will take a broader approach to decode the number of COVID deaths in India, by analysing statistical and predictive models. To help us understand how these models work and what we learn from them, in this episode, you'll hear from Dr Murad Banaji, a mathematician at the University of Middlesex. We also spoke with The Quint’s correspondents Himanshi Dahiya and Asmita Nandy, who recently traveled to rural areas in Uttar Pradesh, to understand the scale of COVID deaths in rural India.

(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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