India publishes 2020 death data ahead of WHO COVID mortality study objecting

A man wearing a protective suit sits next to the bodies of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victims inside an ambulance at the morgue of a COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India, April 15, 2021. (Reuters / Amit Dave / Photo files)

India recorded an estimated 475,000 more total deaths in 2020 than the previous year, government data released months ahead of schedule on Tuesday showed as the World Health Organization prepares its estimates on COVID excess deaths. -19 whose methodology New Delhi has contrary.

Some experts estimate the actual COVID death toll in India to be up to 4 million, about eight times the official figure, mostly because a record wave led by the Delta variant killed many people in April and May last year. The WHO estimate will be published on Thursday.

Vinod Kumar Paul, a senior health official who oversaw India’s fight against the pandemic, said there was nothing “dramatic” about the total deaths data for 2020 and that those were “absolute numbers, correct and counted “.

He said data showing 8.1 million total deaths in India in 2020 was released by the Chancellor General’s Office two to three months in advance due to the focus on the country’s COVID toll.

“There is a public narrative in the media, based on various model estimates, that deaths in India from COVID-19 are many times the reported figure – in reality this is not the case,” he told state TV.

“We now have actual data for 2020, we don’t need to do any modeling now. We will have concrete and solid data also for 2021. Modeling can lead to overestimations, absurd estimates “.

The death toll grew more slowly in the country by 1.35 billion people in 2020 than in the previous two years, the data showed.

India officially recorded 148,738 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, with the tally rising to 523,889 on Tuesday out of more than 43 million cumulative infections. Only the United States and Brazil recorded more deaths as of Tuesday.

Countries around the world only reported 1.83 millions Deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, but WHO estimates a mortality excess of at least 3 million globally for that year.

India said it disagreed with the WHO methodology, although scientists working on the latest estimates did defended him.

—Signal from Krishna N. Editing by Marguerita Choy