Published: 12th March 2022
What the FAQ: What does The Lancet report say about COVID deaths?
The Health Ministry, on March 11, said that The Lancet study is speculative and misinformed
The last two years have been nothing short of a nightmare for thousands of families in this country. The struggle for hospital beds, the horror of oxygen shortage and the lack of medical supplies — the mismanagement of the pandemic led to deaths that could have been avoided.
Feeling abandoned by the state, those with access had turned to social media for help, where strangers were there for strangers in their time of need. For some time now, critics have been claiming that the official COVID deaths in India do not show the real picture. The Lancet report now gives a shape to this claim.
What is does the report say?
The Lancet is one of the most reputed international medical journals. A report published in it on March 11 estimated that 18.2 million (1.82 crore) people globally may have died because of the COVID-19 pandemic by 31 December 2021, which is about three times the official COVID death records. In The Lancet report, because of India’s large population, India accounted for an estimated 22 per cent of the global total deaths.
Where does India fit into this number?
According to the study, the highest numbers of cumulative excess deaths due to COVID-19 were estimated in India at 40.7 lakh (37.1–43.6 lakh). This is eight times more than the number of COVID-19 deaths India has officially registered. Even now, the official toll is 5 lakhs.
Can all these deaths be attributed to COVID-19?
Here is where it is important to note that these numbers are excess deaths during the pandemic and not necessarily due to COVID-19. Excess deaths are defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods. Counts of deaths from all causes of death, including COVID-19, are presented. These numbers are then compared with historical trends during the same period.
How has the government reacted?
The Health Ministry, on March 11, said that The Lancet study is speculative and misinformed. The Ministry officials noted that the authors themselves admit to several methodology flaws and inconsistencies in this paper. “For India, for example, data sources used by the study appear to have been taken from newspaper reports and non-peer-reviewed studies,’’ the Ministry said. The Health Ministry added, “This type of speculative reporting has potential to create panic in the community, can misguide people and should be avoided."