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Covid-19: Indian death count is fake news?

In India on 18/08/2020 at 2:37 pm

India has more than 50,000 Covid-19 deaths, overtaking the UK to become the fourth-worst-affected country for fatalities. But the number of deaths per million people stands at 34. Far lower than what has been reported in Europe or the USof A.

The case fatality rate which measures deaths among Covid-19 patients, is just around 2%. Many epidemiologists attribute this relatively low fatality rate to a young population – the elderly are typically more vulnerable to the infection.

But there are experts querying this analysis, saying that the count should be higher, a lot higher

From a BBC report:

[S]ome believe that there is substantial undercounting in several states.

For one, many states, in contravention of WHO guidelines, are not adding suspected cases in the final count.

Second, a handful of states are heavily attributing Covid-19 deaths to patients’ underlying conditions or co-morbidities. Two states, Gujarat and Telangana, appear to have undercounted heavily, as an investigation by health journalist Priyanka Pulla shows. In Gujarat’s Vadodara, for example, the number of deaths grew by just 49% in the last two months, even as the caseload leapt by a whopping 329%.

Third, there have been reported discrepancies between the official toll from the virus and counts from crematoria and burial grounds in some cities. So is India missing a lot of deaths, considering only a small fraction of the population has been tested – around 2% – and many deaths are not being medically reported? Also, only one in four deaths in India is certified for a cause. “Of course there is undercounting as we have weak health surveillance systems,” says Oommen C Kurian of Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank. “But the question is about the scale of undercounting.”

Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, says it is “hard to gauge how much underreporting is going on without historical data and calculation of excess deaths during this period”.

“Excess deaths” are the bulk of deaths above normal levels, some of which may have been caused by Covid-19.

More than 230 Indians, including doctors, researchers and students, have petitioned authorities to release information on deaths for at least the last three years to calculate “excess deaths”. 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-53773070

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