The Union government has refuted a media report that claimed that India’s actual COVID-19 death toll could be five to seven times higher than what the government says. The report published by The Economist comes at a time when several states including Bihar and Maharashtra are revising their death toll due to the deadly viral infection.
The Centre targeted the publication’s report saying that it is based on extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. The Union government also claimed that the studies used by the publications to ascertain the mortality estimate are not validated tools.
Allegations of data manipulation
Several state governments including Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar have been repeatedly targeted by media reports suggesting that they are not reporting the real death figures.
The Madhya Pradesh government’s data on COVID deaths for April and May stated that only 4,100 people died of the virus. However, according to data from the Civil Registration System, Madhya Pradesh reported 2.3 lakh deaths in these two months, marking a 290 per cent increase compared to the average deaths in these months during the pre-COVID times.
Before that, Bihar drastically revised its COVID death tally on Thursday albeit after a high court order and admitted to shortcomings in its previous data.
Amid these controversies over data manipulation, the Union health ministry said it has been transparent in its approach to COVID data management.
To avoid any inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the ministry said, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued guidelines as early as May 2020.
States told to re-check data
States and Union Territories 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, it said.
The health ministry said that it has also regularly emphasised 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 were told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the state of Bihar to provide detailed date and district-wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to Union health ministry,” it said.
COVID-19 situation in India
The Union health ministry on Sunday informed that over 80,834 fresh cases of COVID-19 have been reported in India in the past 24 hours. The addition of the fresh cases has taken the COVID-19 case tally past 2.94 crore. It is the lowest single-day surge in cases since April 2.
Also, 3,303 COVID-19 related deaths were reported by the ministry during this period. The addition of the fresh fatalities has taken India’s death toll due to the deadly virus to 3,70,384.
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