The official Covid-19 death count in the country crossed the five-lakh-mark on Friday, with 5,00,055 deaths reported from April 2020 to February 4 this year. The number of people who have recovered from the infection stands at 4,00,17,088.
Five states have accounted for 60% of these deaths: Maharashtra (1,42,859 deaths), Kerala (56,701), Karnataka (39,197), Tamil Nadu (37,666) and Delhi (25,392). The peak of the second wave between April and July 2021 accounted for more than two lakh Covid-19 deaths in the country. The average daily reported deaths during this wave was around 4,000, with daily deaths crossing 6,000 mark to 6,418 deaths at its peak. A United Nations report said India lost 2.4 lakh lives to Covid-19 in the Delta wave between April and June 2021.
According to Union health ministry data, mortality rates declined after the national vaccination programme was rolled out. The country’s case fatality rate (CFR) was at 2.51% in May 2020, which has come down to 0.03% in January 2022. During this period, Bengaluru’s CFR came down from 10.77% to 0.04%, Mumbai’s from 6.52% to 0.14% and Chennai’s from 1.65% to 0.02% after administration of the two-dose vaccine.
The health ministry has on several occasions stood by the officially reported mortality data and denied any kind of undercounting of deaths. India has a robust system of recording Covid-19 deaths, the ministry has said.
But several studies, including one by UNDP and the latest from the ‘Science’ journal, have estimated deaths to be much higher than the officially reported numbers. Independent studies have put the death estimate from three-four times to seven-eight times of the reported numbers.
Rijo M John, an economist and public health policy analyst, has pointed out that some states hugely under-reported deaths. The states have approved Covid-19 ex gratia compensation many times higher than their officially recorded deaths, John said in a tweet.
The health ministry has called all the studies claiming significant under-reported deaths as baseless and misleading. “All deaths are being independently reported by states and compiled centrally,” the ministry said. A large number of states have regularly reconciled their death numbers and reported arrear deaths in a transparent manner, it said.
The government expects more robust data emerging from the census data in the coming months.
Daily deaths this year have been around 600 per day. The country reported 1,073 deaths on Friday morning, including 441 backlog cases from Kerala. India’s active caseload stood at 1.49 lakh cases with 1,49.394 new cases and a daily positivity rate of 9.2%.
Cumulative Covid-19 vaccination coverage was at 168.90 crore, with 94.92 crore first doses, 72.60 crore second doses and 1.36 crore precautionary doses administered till Friday evening. Nearly 65% of the children in the 15-17 age group received their first dose and 5.32 crore doses of Covaxin have been administered to them.