ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Question of Accurate COVID-19 Death Figures

The government is expected to focus on collecting accurate and timely mortality data.


The World Health Organization (WHO) sprung a surprise in the first week of May by releasing the estimates of the number of excess deaths due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. Globally, the total excess deaths, directly and indirectly, due to the pandemic were estimated to be between 13.3 million and 16.6 million and approximately 14.9 million. And almost two-thirds of the excess deaths were accounted by 10 countries, including India. The WHO arrived at these estimates by building a statistical model, using the information available from countries with adequate and reliable mortality data, to generate mortality estimates for other countries with inadequate or no data, including India.

The WHO estimates the total excess deaths in India in 2020 and 2021 to be 4.7 million. This is around 10 times larger than the Government of India’s (GoI) official COVID-19 death count of 4,81,000 in the two years. The GoI responded by vociferously protesting that the numbers were grossly exaggerated. However, despite the estimated excess deaths running into millions, the excess deaths per thousand population in India were still only 171, which is much smaller than in more than a dozen other countries.

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Updated On : 21st May, 2022
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