The Centre has lashed out at an international magazine for claiming that India suffered five to seven times more deaths than the official number of COVID-19 fatalities. The Union Health Ministry called the report speculative, baseless and misinformed and added that the unsound analysis of the article was based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence.
The Ministry further said that the studies used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality were not validated tools for determining the mortality rate of any country or region.
Point-by-point rebuttal on COVID deaths claim in India
The statement issued by the goverment read, ‘The so-called “evidence” cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. An internet search of research studies in scientific database such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc. did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine.’
In a point-by-point rebuttal, the government also stated that the report presented a study as evidence that was based on insurance claims in Telangana. But there is no peer-reviewed scientific data available on such a study.
In the report, the govt retorted, two other studies relied upon were those done by Psephological groups namely “Prashnam” and “C-Voter” who are well-versed in the process of conduction, prediction and analysis of poll results. But they were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of the work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times.
The Ministry highlighted that the magazine by its own submission stated that ‘such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such sources as obituaries’.
India transparent in COVID data management: Govt
The Union Health Ministry clarified that the government has been transparent in its approach to COVID data management. To avoid inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in May 2020, issued ‘Guidance for an appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ as per ICD-10 codes recommended by WHO for mortality coding. States and UTs 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.
The government claimed it has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis.
However, the Centre added that 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.