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Mainstream, VOL LX No 20, New Delhi, May 7, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 7, 2022

Saturday 7 May 2022


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 7, 2022

World Health Organization (WHO) says that the worldwide death toll linked to Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 is much higher than the cumulative official figures provided by the authorities of each country. “. . . the total toll directly or indirectly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 is approximately 14.9 million. dead (with a range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million),” the WHO wrote in a statement released on May 5 [1]. The suggestion about death toll being higher than the official toll had been made earlier in the prestigious science journal Nature [2], which in particular took "into account deaths that have passed under the radar of national institutions”. Before the publications of WHO figures a highly respected medical journal The Lancet [3] published a study published in March 2022, that put the global Covid-19 related death toll at 18 million. The WHO study gives a figure of 4.7 million excess Covid-19 deaths in India till December 2021 which is way above India’s current official reported toll of around 0.52 million. Soon after the WHO estimates were released, the Ministry of Health issued a statement on May 5 strongly objecting to the use of mathematical models and a flawed methodology to project excess mortality estimates in the WHO study with regards to India. [4] Why are officials from a large country like India that aspires for a seat on the UN high table so touchy and not willing to accept data sets from international multilateral bodies. The New York Times had reported that WHO’s excess death data study was ready for publication since January 2022, but its release had been delayed due to objections from the Government of India [5]. WHO or many such international entities are not in the game of running conspiracy against any particular country. But these days the standard reflex of state officials and of political leaders from the ruling party in India is that if ‘conclusions’ do not suit you reject these and counter-attack by discrediting data that does not show the regime in a favourable way. We have seen similar government reactions earlier on questions of food security [6] and on jobs [7], and it’s the same with Covid excess death estimates. The one reason why the government could certainly get very nervous with excess mortality data for Covid 19 getting credibility is the prospect of claims for compensation to the families of the deceased. But given the way things are we will probably never know the real numbers of Covid 19 related deaths in India.

May 7, 2022 – HK

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