Highlights

  • India rejects WHO data on Covid deaths, calls it 'questionable'
  • WHO reports says 4.7 mn Covid deaths in India in 2020 and 2021
  • India's official figures put the number at over 5.23 lakhs

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WHO releases data of estimated Covid-19 deaths, India calls it 'questionable'

India has strongly objected to the report released by the World Health Organisation that states that there were 4.7 million estimated Covid-19 deaths in India between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. 

The WHO on Thursday said that 14.9 million people were killed either by COVID-19 directly or due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society, with the global health agency estimating that India had 4.7 million fatalities.

In New Delhi, India strongly objected to the use of mathematical models by the World Health Organization (WHO) for projecting excess mortality estimates linked to the coronavirus pandemic in view of the availability of authentic data, saying validity and robustness of the models used and methodology of data collection are questionable.

New estimates from the WHO show that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic, described as “excess mortality”, between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 was approximately 14.9 million, range 13.3 million to 16.6 million.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes, he said.

Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society).

Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic.

The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.

For India, the cumulative excess deaths associated with COVID-19 pandemic (mean) estimated by the WHO is 4,740,894.

In a technical note for India, WHO said the “estimates may not be regarded as the national statistics officially produced by India due to differences arising from the data and methods used by WHO.” It noted that the information from the Civil Registration System (CRS) in India for 2020 was made publicly available by the Registrar General of India (RGI) on May 3, 2022 in a report.

The newly published information in the report is being carefully examined and will be taken into consideration in revisions of the estimates.

According to sources in New Delhi, India is likely to raise the issue at the World Health Assembly and other required multilateral forums.

India has been consistently objecting to the methodology adopted by the WHO to project excess mortality estimates based on mathematical models, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement.

"Despite India's objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this modelling exercise, WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India's concerns," the statement said.

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