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Millions of Covid deaths unreported in India, says WHO: Key points

NEW DELHI: Several million Covid-19 deaths have most likely gone unreported in India, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report released on Thursday which said that over 4.7 million people in India – nearly 10 times higher than official records – are thought to have died because of the virus.
The Centre has rejected the report while strongly objecting to the use of certain mathematical models for projecting excess mortality estimates in view of the availability of authentic data. “Despite India’s objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this modelling exercise, WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns,” read a statement.
The WHO has estimated that nearly 15 million people were killed either by coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the past two years, more than double the official death toll of 6 million. Most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
The WHO report said that almost half of the deaths that until now had not been counted were in India.
Here are the key takeaways from the report:
* Full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the pandemic (described as “excess mortality”) between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, was approximately 14.9 million (range 13.3 million to 16.6 million).
* 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 earlier years.
* Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
* Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally.
* Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively.
* The estimates for a 24-month period (2020 and 2021) include a breakdown of excess mortality by age and sex. They confirm that the global death toll was higher for men than for women (57% male, 43% female) and higher among older adults.
* The absolute count of the excess deaths is affected by the population size. The number of excess deaths per 100,000 gives a more objective picture of the pandemic than reported Covid-19 mortality data. “These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach,” said Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery at WHO.
* Alongside India, countries with the highest total excess deaths included Russia, Indonesia, USA, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, the WHO figures suggest. The numbers for Russia are three-and-a-half times the country’s recorded deaths.
* Countries with low excess mortality rates included China, which is still pursuing a policy of “zero Covid” involving mass testing and quarantines, Australia, which imposed strict travel restrictions to keep the virus out of the country, Japan and Norway.
* The numbers are far higher than the official tally because of deaths that were missed in countries without adequate reporting. Even pre-pandemic, around 6 in 10 deaths around the world were not registered, the WHO said.
(With inputs from agencies)

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