Govt: Not concealing Covid deaths

By: |
May 28, 2021 5:45 AM

Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW), said at a media briefing on Thursday that there was no question of concealing Covid deaths and such reports were baseless and false.

On Saturday, the city had recorded 60 fatalities and 414 new cases of COVID-19 with a positivity rate of 0.53 per cent.

The government on Thursday denied that the country was under-reporting Covid-19 deaths and rejected the mortality rates estimated for the country.

Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW), said at a media briefing on Thursday that there was no question of concealing Covid deaths and such reports were baseless and false.

He was responding to the questions raised by The New York Times (NYT) report of May 25 on India’s COVID mortality. The NYT had reported that India’s true Covid toll could be in the 6,00,000 to 16,00,000 range compared to the officially reported deaths of 3,07,231. Their conservative estimate was fatality rate of 0.15% and an estimated 6,00,000 deaths.

A more likely scenario they said was a fatality rate of 0.30% and 16,00,000 estimated deaths. The worse case scenario estimated by them was 42 lakh deaths with fatality rate of 0.60%. Total Covid infection estimates ranged from 40.42 crore to 70 crore infections compared to the officially reported cases of 2.69 crore.

Agarwal said these numbers were not supported by evidence or backed by the basis on which these calculations were made. There was a robust system for registration of death and detailed guidelines were issued by the MoHFW for recognizing Covid deaths and reporting it.

Dr Vinod Paul, member, health, Niti Aayog and chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19, said the estimates were done in an ad-hoc manner without any basis. While the number of active infections could be higher than the reported cases and this was known universally so there is no issue about possible infection, Paul said.

However, he had a problem with the mortality rates being estimated at six to 12 times the official death rates. The report was flawed and distorted the mortality estimates on the basis on assumptions without any data from the ground, he said.

Paul acknowledged that some amount of late reporting could be there and these would be adjusted. “We have a strong mortality tracking system which has stood the test of time. Our registration system is respected the world over,” he said.

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