NYT report says India’s Covid toll still an undercount; Centre calls it false

Amidst the current second wave of COVID-19 in India, The New York Times published a report which said that the official numbers on India’s Covid statistics “is most likely still an undercount.”

The report quoted, Kayoko Shioda, an epidemiologist at Emory University, saying, “The undercount of cases and deaths in India is most likely even more pronounced, for technical, cultural and logistical reasons. Because hospitals are overwhelmed, many Covid deaths occur at home, especially in rural areas, and are omitted from the official count.”
“Laboratories that could confirm the cause of death are equally swamped,” she said.”

Titled ‘Just how big could India’s true Covid toll be?’, the report was published on May 25, and two days after, the Indian government rejected the report calling it false.

The joint secretary of the health ministry, Lav Agarwal, termed the NYT report “baseless and false.”

“This entire report is baseless and false. We don’t know on what basis this estimation work was done. We have a robust system in place, which states are following and reporting,” added Lav Aggarwal.

Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, tweeted a screenshot of the report and captioned it as “Numbers don’t lie… GOI does.”

Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan responded to this and tweeted, “Politics on corpses, INCIndia Style! Although vultures are disappearing from trees, it seems their spirit has been absorbed by the vultures of the earth.@RahulGandhi ji trusts #NewYork more than #Delhi. One should learn to play politics on corpses from the vultures of the earth.”

The NYT report is segregated into three different scenarios: a Conservative Scenario, a More Likely Scenario, and a Worse Scenario.

In the “Conservative Scenario’, the report estimates 600,000 deaths due to the Covid-19 infection in India. It estimated 1.6 million deaths in the ‘More Likely Scenario’, and 4.2 million estimated deaths in the ‘Worse Scenario’.

The report is based on three national serosurveys conducted in India during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the time the results of each survey were released, they indicated infection prevalence between 13.5 and 28.5 times higher than India’s reported case counts at those points in the pandemic. The severity of underreporting may have increased or decreased since the last serosurvey was completed, but if it has held steady, that would suggest that almost half of India’s population may have had the virus,” said the report.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the current death toll has reached 318,895 as on May 28, 2021.