States record Covid toll as per ICMR: Centre on ‘speculative’ report that India suffered 5-7 times excess deaths

States record Covid toll as per ICMR: Centre on ‘speculative’ report that India suffered 5-7 times excess deaths


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Saturday informed that States and Union Territories record Covid-19 deaths as per guidance issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

In an official release, the ministry slammed a renowned international magazine for publishing an article that claimed that “India has suffered perhaps five to seven times ‘excess deaths’ than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities”.

The union health ministry said that the article was speculative article, is without any basis and seems to be misinformed.

It added that the unsound analysis of the said article is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence.

Studies which are used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality are not validated tools for determining the mortality rate of any country or region, the government said.

“The so-called “evidence” cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. An internet search of research studies in scientific databases such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine.

“Another evidence given is the study done in Telangana based on insurance claims. Again, there is no peer-reviewed scientific data available on such a study,” the statement said.

“Two other studies relied upon are those done by Psephology groups namely “Prashnam” and “C-Voter” who are well versed in conducting, predicting and analyzing poll results. They were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times,” it said.

By their own submission, the magazine states that “such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such things as obituaries”, the statement said

Stating that it has been transparent in its approach to Covid data management, the government said that as early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the ICMR issued ‘Guidance for the appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths as per ICD-10 codes recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) for mortality coding.

States and UTs have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines.

Union Health Ministry said that it has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis.

States consistently reporting a lower number of daily deaths was told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the State of Bihar to provide a detailed date and district-wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to the Union Health Ministry.

As per the ministry’s release, it’s a well-known fact that there shall always be differences in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as Covid pandemic and well-conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources. The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality.


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