Centre trashes report on higher Covid deaths

Says assessment based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence

Centre trashes report on higher Covid deaths

Family members perform the last rites of a Covid-19 victim, at Ulubari cremation ground in Guwahati, on Saturday, June 12, 2021. PTI

New Delhi, June 12

India on Saturday refuted a report which claimed that its Covid deaths could be “five-to-seven times” higher than the official number, saying the assessment is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence.

In a statement, the Union Health Ministry also slammed the publication, without naming it, for the article which claimed “India has suffered perhaps five to seven times ‘excess deaths’ than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities”.

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The ministry termed the article, published by The Economist, speculative, without any basis and misinformed.

“The unsound analysis of the said article is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence,” the ministry said, adding the studies used by the magazine to estimate the mortality are not validated tools for determining the death rate of any country or region.

The ministry then went on to list the reasons why the studies used by the publication cannot be trusted.

An internet search of research studies in scientific databases such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and its detailed methodology has not been provided by the magazine either, the ministry said.

“Another evidence given is the study done in Telangana based on insurance claims. Again, there is no peer-reviewed scientific data available on such a study,” the statement said.

“Two other studies relied upon are those done by Psephology groups namely ‘Prashnam’ and ‘C-Voter’ who are well versed in conducting, predicting and analysing poll results. They were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times,” it said.

By their own submission, the magazine states that “such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such things as obituaries”, the statement said. It said the government has been transparent in its approach to Covid data management.

In order to avoid any inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the ministry said, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued guidelines as early as in May 2020.

It said that for correct recording of all deaths, the ICD-10 codes recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) was followed.

States and Union Territories have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines, it said.

The Health Ministry said that it has also regularly emphasised the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis.

“States consistently reporting lower number of daily deaths were told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the State of Bihar to provide detailed date and district wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to Union Health Ministry,” it said.

The statement said there shall always be difference in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as Covid pandemic and well conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources.

The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality, the statement said. PTI

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