NEW DELHI: India saw 4.7 million more Covid- 19 deaths by 2021-end, which is 10 times the official figures of half a million and almost a third of Covid deaths globally, according to estimates put out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday.
Shortly thereafter, the Union government issued a strong rebuttal questioning the validity and robustness of the models used by the global health body and its methodology of data collection. WHO estimates suggest the full toll associated directly or indirectly with the pandemic (described as excess mortality) between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 was approximately 14.9 million (range 13.3-16.6 million).
Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years. Excess mortality includes deaths associated with Covid- 19 directly or indirectly due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society. India saw the largest absolute excess mortality numbers as compared to any other country in the world.
The estimates put around 8,30,000 excess deaths in 2020 and 3.9 million in 2021 — most of them during the second wave. Men accounted for 57% of the estimated excess deaths. As many as 78% of the excess deaths were in the 60- plus age group. The health ministry strongly pushed back, saying “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.”
India told the WHO that in view of the availability of authentic data published through Civil Registration System by the Registrar General of India, mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality data. Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas.