By Dr Gyan Pathak
The WHO data on global deaths related to COVID-19 was finally released on May 5 despite the Modi government’s best efforts to stop its release, delaying it by at least four months. The actual data was more shocking than the leaked data a fortnight ago as it revealed one reported death while 10 actually died versus 8 in the leaked report. Even more shocking is the distinction that India has the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths, while our beloved Prime Minister tried again and again to convince us of his government’s “success story” in handling the crisis. The Modi government refuted the WHO figure, calling it incorrect, for the same methodological reasons based on those it had been challenging for months in the international forum, which have already been rejected. The people in general, the mourners in particular who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19, and the entire opposition have condemned this government alleging “concealment and lies.”
India’s objection has already been refuted by John Wakefield, a member of the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group, as “inaccurate”. “We emphasize that, for India, the global predictive covariate model is not used, so estimates of excess mortality are based on data from India only,” says the research paper’s methodology. India only had data for 17 states and also does not have a national number for all-cause mortality and for 2021 only a few months’ data was available. The document also says that the data for India was obtained from the registered number of deaths at the State and Union Territory level that was reported directly by the States through official reports and automatic vital registration, or by journalists who obtained registration information. of death through RTI requests. .
Even before delving into the data published by the WHO, one must take note of the miserable condition of those bereaved, widows, orphans, physically disabled who have lost loved ones who were only sustenance for them. They have been waiting for compensation under the Disaster Management Law to which they are entitled and have been running around to get death certificates, which is usually denied by the authorities at the forefront of matters. The Center’s guidelines regarding the declaration of death from COVID-19 do not allow officials to issue them the required death certificates. One can see the humanitarian crisis everywhere, if one wants.
Even after the publication of the new data from the WHO, the attitude of the Modi government is clear. He does not want to respond to the humanitarian crisis now facing mourners by not counting the deaths of his patients as the impact of COVID-19. The government is strictly following its own arguable guidelines regarding death reporting which covers only deaths occurring within hospital settings at a time when India’s health system was overwhelmed and a large number of deaths were occurring outside and no access to hospitals, doctors, oxygen and medicine, etc. In addition, deaths due to comorbidities and other medical conditions aggravated by COVID-19, and lack of access to health care due to the burden of COVID-19 in hospitals, containment measures, closures, curfews, lack of transportation. , and so on, were out of the question to be counted. Corpses were being dumped even on riverbeds and in rivers. Obviously, there were more deaths than the deaths reported under the center’s guidelines.
The new WHO data has tried to remove some of the anomalies by reporting actual deaths as an impact of COVID-19. Therefore, the rebuttal of the Modi government is not credible when it says that the WHO “the figure is totally far from reality”. The reality is that the figure of the Modi government itself is totally removed from reality, although it may have some technical basis that has become useful to hide the real deaths.
It is ironic that the Modi government has now said the country has an “extremely robust” birth and death registration system while defending its own data. Where was such a robust system when the government reported to the Indian parliament that it had no data on the deaths of migrant workers who had just died while returning from the cities to their villages during the first phase of the unprepared lockdown in 2020? Such deaths made headlines and the whole world was shocked. Again, during the second wave, many patients died due to lack of oxygen supply, which made the news again. However, the subsequent Modi government even denied such incidents in parliament. The Modi government has always been suspected of hiding the real picture.
Just two days ago, India released its annual data for birth and death registration for the year 2020, recorded in its Civil Registration System (CRS), which showed around 4.75 lakh more deaths than the previous year. For the same year, WHO data reveals excess deaths of 8.3 lakh. The Modi government has also defended its position on the basis of CRS data. Since CRS does not classify deaths by cause, India’s defense is considered weak. In addition, it presents a case of review of the functioning of the CRS.
Now the WHO has said in its report that, between January 2020 and December 2021, there were 4.74 million “excess” covid deaths in India, the maximum number which is 10 times the official figures of 481,000 and almost a third of covid deaths worldwide, the largest. for any country in the world. As of May 6, India has reported just 523,975 deaths. India’s excess death toll is close to five times the death reported by the US, which is 1.02 million.
The new WHO estimates show that the total number of deaths worldwide directly or indirectly associated with COVID-19 was approximately 14.9 million in the range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million. It obviously makes a case for generating better data for better decisions and better outcomes, which not only points to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health. information systems. Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from previous years.
Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 due directly to the disease or indirectly due to the impact of the pandemic on health systems and society. Deaths indirectly linked to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overwhelmed by the pandemic. The estimated number of excess deaths may also be influenced by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks from certain events, such as car accidents or work injuries, the WHO said.
The Modi government must therefore do something to provide compensation and other aid to those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 or any other related reason, especially those who were the breadwinners of the family. They are in extremely miserable conditions, they need help, and the Modi government must not deny this under any pretext. (IPA service)
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