India’s coronavirus death toll is up to 10 times higher than the nearly 415,000 fatalities reported by authorities, making it likely the country’s worst humanitarian disaster since independence, a US research group said Tuesday.
The Center for Global Development research estimate is the highest yet for the South Asian country’s 1.3 billion people massacre, which stemmed from a devastating wave fueled in part by the Delta variant in April and May.
The study – which analyzed data from the start of the pandemic to June this year – suggested that between 3.4 million and 4.7 million people had died from the virus.
India’s official Covid-19 death toll of just over 414,000 is the third highest in the world after 609,000 deaths in the US and 542,000 in Brazil. During India’s deadliest phase of the pandemic in May, more than 4,000 deaths were reported every day – more than any other country. However, a new report suggests the true death toll could be as high as 4.7 million
India’s second wave saw a devastating wave fueled in part by the Delta variant in April and May, resulting in more than 300,000 new cases per day (pictured)
“True deaths are likely to be in the millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence,” the researchers said.
After the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 into mostly Hindu India and a Muslim majority in Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of people died from sectarian bloodshed. By some estimates, up to two million people have died and 10 to 20 million have been displaced.
India’s official Covid-19 death toll of just over 414,000 is the third highest in the world, after 609,000 deaths in the United States and 542,000 in Brazil.
A devastating surge in infections in April and May, driven largely by the more contagious and dangerous Delta variant, overwhelmed India’s healthcare system, costing at least 170,000 people in May alone, according to official data.
At the deadliest moment of India’s outbreak in May, it officially reported more than 4,000 deaths a day, a figure not seen anywhere else in the world since the start of the global pandemic.
Experts have been sowing doubts about India’s toll for months, blaming the already overstretched health service.
Pictured: Multiple pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burning in a site converted into a crematorium, April 24, 2021. India’s coronavirus death toll is up to 10 times higher than the nearly 415,000 fatalities reported by authorities reported, a new study has claimed
Several Indian states have revised their virus toll in recent weeks, causing thousands of ‘backlog’ deaths.
The Center for Global Development report was based on estimating ‘excess mortality’, the number of extra people who have died compared to pre-crisis figures.
The authors — including Arvind Subramanian, a former government economic adviser — did this in part by analyzing death records in some states, as well as a recurring national economic survey.
They also compared studies of the spread of Covid-19 in India with international death rates.
The researchers, including an expert from Harvard University, recognized that it was difficult to estimate mortality with statistical certainty.
“(But) all estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count,” they said.
Pictured: A man in a protective suit digs earth to bury the body of a person who died of COVID-19 in Gauhati, India, April 25, 2021. The new study — which analyzed data from the start of the pandemic to June this year — suggested that between 3.4 million and 4.7 million people had died from the virus
Christophe Guilmoto, a specialist in Indian demography at the French Research Institute for Development, estimated this month that the death toll was close to 2.2 million at the end of May.
India’s death rate per million was nearly half the world average and Guilmoto said “such a low figure contradicts the apparent severity of a crisis that has affected most Indian families across the country.”
Guilmoto’s team concluded that only one in seven deaths from coronavirus was recorded.
A model from the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that the Covid toll could exceed 1.25 million.
India’s health ministry last month criticized The Economist magazine for publishing a story that said the death toll was between five and seven times the official toll, calling it “speculative” and “misinformed.”
A report from the World Health Organization in May said that up to three times more people had died worldwide – from coronavirus or other causes – during the pandemic than indicated by official statistics.
Pictured: Pyres of twenty-five COVID-19 victims burn at an open crematorium in a granite quarry on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, May 5, 2021
Some experts have said additional deaths are the best way to measure the real toll of COVID-19.
The New York Times said the most conservative estimate of the number of deaths in India was 600,000 and several times that number at worst. The government also rejected those figures.
Health experts have said the undercount is largely due to scarce resources in India’s vast hinterland, where two-thirds of the population lives, and because many have died at home without being tested.
India has reported a decline in the daily number of infections from a peak in May, and on Tuesday registered the lowest number of daily infections in four months with 30,093 new cases.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has also been criticized for a messy vaccination campaign that many believe has contributed to the worsening of the second wave of infections.
India has so far vaccinated just over 8 percent of eligible adults with the mandatory two doses.
In July, the government administered an average of less than 4 million doses per day, up from a record 9.2 million doses on June 21, when Modi launched a campaign to vaccinate the country’s 950 million adults for free.