A report published by India’s former chief economic advisor Aravind Subramanian and two other researchers at the Center of Gloabl Developement and Harvard University said that India’s excess deaths could be an astounding 10 times the official Covid-19 toll.
The report released on Tuesday estimated excess deaths – the gap between those recorded and those that would have been expected – to be between 3 million to 4.7 million between January 2020 and June 2021.
It said an accurate figure may “prove elusive” but the true death toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count.”
The report said the discrepancy can be attributed to swamped hospitals or while health care was delayed or disrupted, especially during the calamitous peak earlier this year.
“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and independence,” the report said.
The report on India’s virus toll used three calculation methods: data from the civil registration system that records births and deaths across seven states, blood tests showing the prevalence of the virus in India alongside global Covid-19 fatality rates, and an economic survey of nearly 900,000 people done thrice a year.
Researchers cautioned that each method had weaknesses, such as the economic survey omitting the causes of death.
Instead, researchers looked at deaths from all causes and compared that data to mortality in previous years – a method widely considered an accurate metric.
Researchers also cautioned that virus prevalence and Covid-19 deaths in the seven states they studied may not translate to all of India, since the virus spread varies from urban to rual areas and health care infrastructure differs with regions.
Also, India’s vast population of 1.4 billion has also blown up the gap.
The report also estimated that nearly 2 million Indians died during the first surge in infections last year and said not “grasping the scale of the tragedy in real time” may have “bred collective complacency that led to the horrors” of the surge earlier this year.
Over the last few months, some states have increased their Covid-19 death toll as several thousands of cases were previously unreported, escalating fears that more fatalities still remain unrecorded.