Countering media reports that India’s suspected Covid-19 death toll was “vastly underestimated,” the Center said on Thursday that reports assumed all excess mortality figures are deaths from Covid, which no it is not based on facts and totally misleading.
The Union Health Ministry said that given India’s robust and law-based death registration system, while some cases might go undetected in accordance with the principles of infectious diseases and their management , fatalities are unlikely to be missed.
There have been recent media reports alleging that the excessive death toll in India during the pandemic could run into the millions, calling the official Covid-19 death toll “vastly underestimated,” the ministry said. in a press release.
In these reports, citing the results of some recent studies, age-specific infection death rates for the United States and European countries were used to calculate excess deaths in India on the basis of HIV status.
“The extrapolation of deaths was made on a bold assumption that the likelihood of an infected person dying is the same in all countries, rejecting the interplay between various direct and indirect factors such as race, ethnicity, the genomic makeup of a population, the previous exposure levels to other diseases and the associated immunity developed in that population, âthe release said.
In addition, seroprevalence studies are not only used to guide strategy and measures to further prevent the spread of infection to the vulnerable population, but are also used as another basis for extrapolating deaths.
The studies also have another potential concern that antibody titers may decrease over time, leading to an underestimation of the true prevalence and a corresponding overestimation of the death rate from infection.
Furthermore, reports assume that all excess mortality figures are deaths from Covid-19, which is not factual and totally misleading. Excess mortality is a term used to describe an all-cause mortality figure. and attributing these deaths to Covid-19 is completely misleading, âthe statement said.
India has an extensive contact tracing strategy. All primary contacts, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, are tested for Covid-19. The real cases detected are those which are positive with RT-PCR, which is the gold standard of the Covid-19 test.
In addition to contacts, given the wide availability of more than 2,700 testing laboratories in the country, anyone who wishes to be tested can do so. This, along with awareness campaigns on symptoms and access to medical care, has enabled people to go to hospitals when needed.
Given India’s strong and law-based death registration system, deaths are unlikely to be missed.
This is also seen in the case fatality rate which as of December 31, 2020 stood at 1.45% and even after an unexpected surge seen in the second wave in April-May 2021, the case fatality rate is now rising. today at 1.34%. , It said.
In addition, the daily notification of new cases and deaths in India follows a bottom-up approach, where districts report the number of cases and deaths to state governments and the Union Ministry on an ongoing basis, the statement said.
As of May 2020, to avoid any inconsistency or confusion in the number of reported deaths, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) issued “Guidelines for the Appropriate Recording of Covid-19-Related Deaths in India” for registration. correct of all deaths by states / UT as recommended by WHO for mortality coding.
In his statement to Rajya Sabha, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya refuted allegations of cover-up of Covid-19 deaths and said the central government only compiles and publishes data sent by the governments of the States, according to the statement.
The Union Department of Health has repeatedly advised states and UTs to register deaths according to guidelines.
The Ministry of Health has also regularly stressed the need for a strong reporting mechanism to monitor cases and deaths on a daily basis at the district level.
States were urged to conduct in-depth audits at their hospitals and report any cases or deaths that may have been missed with a district and details by date to guide data-driven decision making.
At the height of the second wave, the entire health system focused on effective clinical management of cases requiring medical assistance, and correct notification and registration could have been compromised, which is also evident in a few states such as Maharashtra, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. their number of deaths recently.
In addition to these reports, the robustness of the law-based civil registration (CRS) system ensures that all births and deaths in the country are registered.
CRS goes through a process of collecting data, cleaning up, assembling and releasing the numbers, which, while a lengthy process, ensures that no deaths are overlooked. For the breadth and depth of the activity, the numbers are usually released a year later, the statement said.
(With contributions from the agency)
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Last updated 22 July 2021, 13:44 IST