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Top experts question WHO figures on excess COVID deaths in India, its methodology

ANI | Updated: May 05, 2022 23:35 IST

By Shalini Bhardwaj
New Delhi [India], May 5 (ANI): After the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that India had 4.7 million "excess" COVID deaths, the country questioned the modelling methodology used by the organisation and said it is disappointed with its ''one-size-fits-all'' approach.
According to the WHO report, more than 4.7 million people in India are thought to have died because of COVID-19.
Lashing out for projecting excess mortality estimates, Dr VK Paul, Member-Health, NITI Aayog, speaking to ANI said, "Unfortunately, in spite of our emphatic writing, rational communication at the ministerial level, they have chosen to use the number that is based on modelling assumptions-- one size fits all kind of assumptions."
Dr Paul said that India has been telling WHO that the country does not agree with the methodology followed by India.

"We understand that this report has covered what they label as excess mortality, in the year spanning COVID19. India has been telling WHO via diplomatic channels with data that we don't agree with the methodology followed for us," he added.
However, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Balram Bhargava said, "Once we have this systematic data, we do not need to rely on modelling, extrapolations and taking press reports and utilising them for putting into a modelling exercise."
All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi Director Randeep Guleria objected to the WHO's approach and gave three reasons for it.

"I have objections and I will give three reasons for that. India has a very robust system of birth and death registration which has been going on for decades. We know it works very well and that data is available," said Guleria.
AIIMS Director further said that data should be used to see the number of excess deaths that happened during this time and excess deaths that could be attributable to COVID and WHO didn't use that data.
"Secondly-- data that WHO used is more on hearsay evidence-- what's there in media or unconfirmed sources. That data is questionable. Modelling on that data isn't the correct and scientifically right thing to do, especially, when you have data that is more robust," he said.

Giving the last reason Dr Guleria said India has been very liberal in offering compensation for people who died of COVID, that is, there is a very open manner.
"So, even if there were excessive deaths that were COVID related, they would have been recorded because people would have come forward, and their relatives would have come forward for compensation. This has not been the case as far as the numbers that WHO is predicting," said AIIMS Director.
Further speaking on WHO's claim on COVID deaths in India, he said that India needs to present the data which is scientific and more on an evidence basis.
"So, the prediction seems to be way beyond what actual numbers are and is based on data that is not substantiated. That is why I think that this is something which we, as a country, should object to and we need to present our data which is scientific and more on evidence basis," he added.
In a press briefing on Thursday organised by World Health Organisation (WHO) said that India had 4.7 million "excess" COVID deaths, 10 times more than the official figure. The technical officer at the department of data and analytics William Msemburi said, "The reported Covid-19 number is 481,000 and the estimated excess is 4.74 million. So 481,000 reported COVID-19 numbers and then an excess mean of 4.7 million. The uncertainty around that is 3.3 million to 6.5 million. So, those are the estimated numbers for India." (ANI)