Covid-19: India's health ministry slams WHO’s pandemic toll

The UN health agency estimates some 4.75 million deaths in the country since 2020, which is 10 times higher than the official numbers



Reuters
Reuters

By AFP

Published: Thu 5 May 2022, 10:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 5 May 2022, 11:35 PM

New Delhi on Thursday slammed as flawed the World Health Organization’s estimated pandemic-related death total for India — which put the numbers at 10 times the country’s official toll.

The WHO estimated some 4.75 million deaths in India since 2020 could be attributed to the crisis, either directly from Covid-19 or indirectly through the pandemic’s wider impact on health systems and society.

The figure, with an estimated range of 3.3 to 6.5 million, would ascribe almost a third of the world’s pandemic-related deaths to India.

India officially reported 481,000 Covid-19 deaths for 2020-21.

The WHO figures, termed as excess mortality, are calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that occurred and the number that would have been expected in the absence of the pandemic.

After WHO released the numbers, New Delhi said it had consistently opposed the UN health agency’s calculation methods.

The Indian health and family welfare ministry in a statement accused WHO of publishing the data “without adequately addressing India’s concerns”.

Given the availability of “authentic data”, it said, “mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality numbers for India”.

The country’s size, diversity and population of 1.3 billion meant the ‘one size fits all’ approach and model “cannot be applicable to India”, the ministry said.

“WHO, for reasons best known to them, conveniently chose to ignore the available data submitted by India,” it added.

The Delta variant of Covid-19 was first detected in India in October 2020 and went on to trigger a huge surge in cases in the country in April 2021 — and become the globally dominant strain.

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Officially India says just under 525,000 people have died in the country from Covid, including deaths recorded this year.

Experts have consistently believed the true toll was several times higher.

Samira Asma, the WHO’s data chief, said the agency held a series of consultations with New Delhi and would continue “to engage with colleagues from India”.


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