A health worker interacts with COVID-19 patients at the Shehnai Banquet Hall, a COVID-19 care facility, in New Delhi, January 12, 2022. Photo: Kamal Kishore/PTI
Epidemiologist Prabhat Jha has said that the WHO doesn’t trust India’s COVID-19 death figures and that when the body prepared its first estimate of global deaths due to COVID-19, it didn’t include the data from India.
Jha added that when the WHO publishes its revised estimate of deaths worldwide – which is expected sometime soon – it will use secondary sources, presumably in addition to the Indian government’s figures, for a fuller picture of India’s COVID-19 mortality.
He also requested India’s registrar-general to include a question about COVID-19 deaths in the forthcoming national census.
“Given the calamity from COVID-19, the forthcoming census, now planned for September 2022, could add a simple question: was there a death in the house in 2020 or 2021 and, if so, the age, sex and date and those data would give you an exact counting of the excess deaths that occurred in the pandemic.”
Jha was the lead author of a study published on January 7, 2022, that estimated India’s total COVID-19 deaths between June 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, to be seven to eight times greater than the official figure. That is, the official number was around 400,000 but his study found it to be between 3.1 million and 3.4 million.
In a 25-minute interview with The Wire, Jha said the reason the WHO doesn’t trust India’s COVID-19 death count is because India undercounts substantially more than to other countries.