India’s COVID-19 death toll is up to 10 times higher than the nearly official 415,000 fatalities, a report by Center for Global Development claimed.
If confirmed, the death toll would make COVID-19 India’s worst humanitarian disaster since independence.
The US research group in a report released Tuesday said it analysed data from the start of the pandemic to June this year.
It then suggested that between 3.4 million and 4.7 million people had died from the virus.
“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India‘s worst human tragedy since partition and independence,” the researchers said.
India’s official death toll of just over 414,000 is the world’s third-highest after the United States’ 609,000 fatalities and Brazil’s 542,000.
Experts have been casting doubt on India’s toll for months, blaming the stressed health service rather than deliberate misinformation.
But in June, India’s health ministry slammed The Economist magazine for publishing a story that said excess deaths were between five and seven times higher than the official toll, calling it “speculative” and “misinformed”.
The doubts over official figures have persisted, especially after several Indian states revised their virus tolls in recent weeks, adding thousands of “backlog” deaths.
The centre’s report was based on estimating “excess mortality”, the number of extra people who died compared with pre-crisis figures.
The authors — which included Arvind Subramanian, a former chief government economic adviser — did this partly by analysing death registrations in some states as well as a recurring national economic study.
India has reported more than 31 million infections, a number second only to United States cases.
The researchers, which also included a Harvard University expert, acknowledged that estimating mortality with statistical confidence was difficult.
“(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.
Christophe Guilmoto, a specialist in Indian demography at France’s Research Institute for Development, also this month estimated that the death toll was nearer 2.2 million by late 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 struck most Indian families across the country”.
Guilmoto’s team concluded that only one coronavirus death in seven was recorded.
A model by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that the Covid toll could be more than 1.25 million.
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