Experts warned Tuesday that a comprehensive examination of the COVID-19 outbreak in India suggests there may be millions more deaths from the disease than government estimates suggest.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 400,000 people in India, according to government figures. However, according to the Center for Global Development, India’s excess deaths could be as high as 5 million.
Researchers looked at death records from states that account for half of India’s population, then used international estimates of infection fatality rates by age group. Experts then reviewed India’s consumer survey of 868,000 individuals, which also documents if any family members died in the past four months.
“All estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000,” the Center for Global Development said in a statement.
“They also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than is believed. Understanding and engaging with the data-based estimates is necessary because in this horrific tragedy the counting.”
Arvind Subramanian, India’s former chief economic adviser and one of the authors of the study, said it’s likely that India’s COVID-19 death toll is much higher.
“Two of our three estimates measure all-cause mortality and not COVID-19 deaths,” Subramanian told BBC News.
“Our second measure is a bit closer to a number of [actual] COVID-19 deaths, but it is only one of three estimates.”
The researchers concluded that “true deaths” are likely to be in the several million, not hundreds of thousands, making the pandemic arguably India’s “worst human tragedy since partition and independence.”