NEW DELHI: Amid controversy over undercounting of Covid deaths in the country, the Centre on Thursday yet again reiterated that it has always advised states to conduct death audits in their hospitals and also report any cases or deaths that could have been missed.
India follows ICMR guidelines which are based on WHO-recommended ICD-10 codes for correct recording of all Covid deaths, the government maintained.
About 4 lakh deaths have been confirmed due to Covid in India thus far, but some researchers estimated that the actual deaths due to the infectious disease could be anywhere between 25-50 lakhs.
In a detailed statement issued, the Union health ministry however said that there have been some reports citing findings from some recent studies, in the US and European countries in which age-specific infection fatality rates have been used to calculate excess deaths in India based on the seropositivity.
The extrapolation of deaths has been done on an “audacious assumption that the likelihood of any given infected person dying is the same across countries, dismissing the interplay between various direct & indirect factors such as race, ethnicity, the genomic constitution of a population, previous exposure levels to other diseases, said the statement.
It also said that the studies also have another potential concern that the antibody titers may diminish over time, leading to underestimation of true prevalence and corresponding overestimation of infection fatality rate.
“Further, the reports assume that all the excess mortality figures are Covid deaths, which is not based on facts and totally fallacious,” the ministry stressed adding that the excess mortality is a term used to describe an all-cause mortality figure and attributing these deaths to Covid is “completely misleading”.
Given the robust and statute-based death registration system in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of infectious disease and its management, the Centre underlined, adding that missing out on the deaths is unlikely.
This could also be seen in the case fatality rate, which, as of December 31 stood at 1.45% and even after an unexpected surge observed in the second wave in April-May 2021, the case fatality rate today stands at 1.34%, as per the government.
The health ministry said that during the peak of the second Covid wave, the entire health system was focused on effective clinical management of cases requiring medical help, and correct reporting and recording could have been compromised which is also evident in a few states such as Maharashtra, Bihar & Madhya Pradesh reconciling their number of deaths recently.
“In addition to this reporting, the robustness of statute-based Civil Registration System ensures all the births and deaths in the country get registered.”