India slams WHO over report claiming 4 million coronavirus deaths

  • Government figures put the country’s Covid fatalities at 520,000, accounting for the third-largest toll after the US and Brazil
  • However, a new report from the WHO estimates that the true rate may be eight times higher than the official count
Agence France-Presse |

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Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stand at the entrance of a coronavirus hospital in Ahmedabad, India in January 2022. Photo: Reuters

India has sharply criticised a forthcoming World Health Organization (WHO) study which reportedly claims coronavirus killed four million people nationally, the latest analysis suggesting a significant undercount of the pandemic’s death toll.

The New York Times reported last week that officials in New Delhi, the capitol of India, had stalled the study’s release after disputing that India’s true fatality count was eight times higher than official figures.

The conclusion matches similar figures by The Lancet medical journal last month and a February study in the journal Science that calculated a Covid death toll of at least 3.2 million.

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But India’s health ministry said in a weekend statement that the WHO’s mathematical modelling of the pandemic was “questionable” and “statistically unproven”.

Several concerns were raised to the global health body over the report, including what the ministry said was a “peculiar” assumption of a relationship between lower temperatures and monthly deaths.

India had shared its misgivings through several formal communications and meetings since last November, according to the ministry.

Indian Christians wearing masks as a precaution against Covid gather for prayers as they observe Palm Sunday in Kochi, Kerala state, India, on Sunday, April 10, 2022. Photo: AP

“A satisfactory response is yet to be received from WHO,” it added.

The WHO was not immediately available for comment.

Indian officials have previously disputed the methodology behind The Lancet and Science studies that also found vastly higher death tolls.

Its official figures show 520,000 Covid deaths nationally, which still accounts for the world’s largest single-country toll after the United States and Brazil.

India was battered by a devastating Covid outbreak last year that saw thousands of people dying each day at its peak, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums.

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