Missing out on COVID-19 deaths ‘unlikely’: Indian government reacts to foreign studies on actual death toll
The health ministry said India follows guidelines based on WHO recommended codes for correct recording of all Covid-19 deaths
Amid several foreign studies claiming that India’s death toll during Covid-19 pandemic is incorrect or fudged, the central government on Tuesday said that it has been transparent in its approach to Covid-19 data management and that a robust system of recording all Covid related deaths already exists.
There have been some media reports, based on a yet-to be peer-reviewed study which was uploaded on MedRxiv recently, alleging that at least 2.7 to 3.3 million Covid-19 deaths happened during the two waves of Covid-19 in India, quoting three different databases ‘pointing towards at least 27% excess mortality over a year.’
“The report further ‘concludes’ that India’s COVID death rate may be about 7-8 times higher than the officially reported toll and claims that ‘most of these additional deaths are likely to have been due to COVID-19,” Such “mis-informed reports are totally fallacious,” the center said.
It further clarified that the Union Government has been transparent in its approach to COVID data management and a robust system of recording all COVID-19 related deaths already exists.
“All States and Union Territories have been entrusted with the responsibility to update the data on a continuous basis,” it added.
Noting that India follows ICMR guidelines which are based on WHO recommended ICD-10 codes for correct recording of all Covid-19 deaths, the center said, “The robustness of statute based Civil Registration System (CRS) ensures institutionalised registration of births and deaths in the country. Given that the CRS has been implemented for decades in India, missing out on Covid-19 deaths is unlikely.”
The central government said that the health system across India was focused on effective clinical management of cases requiring medical help during the peak of the second wave, as a result of which correct reporting and recording of COVID deaths could have been delayed, but were later reconciled by the states/UTs.
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 the deaths is unlikely,” the Health Ministry said.
The Health Ministry stressed that the CRS follows the process of data collection, cleaning, collating and publishing the numbers, which although is a long drawn process, ensures no deaths are missed out.
Furthermore, due to the expanse and the amplitude of the pandemic, the actual figures are usually published the following year.
“The Centre has repeatedly been advising states and UTs to conduct thorough audits in hospitals and report any cases or deaths that could have been missed, with district and date-wise details,” the statement read.