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India has undercounted Covid-19 deaths by hundreds of thousands: Wall Street Journal

Cover photo: A snapshot of India’s Ministry of Health’s vaccination drive campaign.

New Delhi, June 28 (IANS) India has officially recorded more than 3,90,000 coronavirus deaths, but families who have lost loved ones, health experts and statisticians say that vastly undercounts the true toll, Wall Street Journal reported.

According to statisticians, the official death count of 3,90,000 falls far short of the pandemic’s actual toll, the report said.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation believes the true death toll in India may exceed 1.1 million, almost three times the reported number.

India’s undercount has also left a huge gap in the world’s understanding of the impact of the Delta variant, which health experts believe helped drive one of the world’s worst Covid-19 surges in April and May. India was the first to detect the highly infectious variant, which has hopscotched around the world. It is fuelling a surge in the UK, and is expected to become the dominant variant in the US.

An accurate count of Covid-19 infections and deaths is “a very important part of understanding how big a threat new variants are,” said Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, quoted in WSJ.

As coronavirus cases rose rapidly across India in April, a 70-year-old woman died at her home in the eastern state of Bihar. A rapid antigen test for Covid-19 had been positive, and a lung scan had indicated viral pneumonia and the “possibility of Covid infection.”

But Shila Singh’s death hasn’t been counted among India’s Covid-19 toll.

Families like Mrs. Singh’s have been left struggling to get compensation that some states have set up for Covid-19 victims, the report said.

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