As India struggles to slow or arrest the spread of COVID-19 infections, doubts are being raised about its low COVID-19 death toll, despite a sharp surge being reported in infections. Today, India’s infection numbers stand a t 1.04 million with 26,273 number of COVID-19 related deaths being reported in India.
Compare that to the numbers in the US, Brazil and Italy we get very strange figures. The US has recorded 3,707, 023 infections and 1, 40, 105 deaths. While Brazil’s infection number is 2, 074, 860 and it recorded 78,772 deaths. Italy has had 2, 44, 216 infections and35, 042 deaths. Spain another country with heavy onslaught of COVID-19 recorded 2, 60, 255 and 28, 420 deaths.
That makes India’s numbers a bit peculiar. To date, India has recorded 1, 038, 716 (I.04 million) infections and only 26,273 deaths.
|America||3, 707, 023||1, 40, 105|
|Brazil||2, 074, 860|
0, 78, 772
|Italy||0, 244, 216||0, 35, 042|
|Spain||0, 260, 255||0, 28, 420|
|India||1, 038, 716|
0, 26, 273
Looking at the very low number of COVID-19 casualties in India, people have started speculating the possibility of authorities either fudging the figures or lack of care in properly recording actual COVID-19 deaths in some parts of India.
“As the coronavirus pandemic accelerates in the world’s second-most populous nation, India has crossed a once-unthinkable threshold: 1 million confirmed cases, joining the United States and Brazil in a club no country wants to enter.
Yet behind the figure lies a paradox. India has arrived at this milestone with about half the number of deaths — 25,000 — as those two countries recorded at the same point in their outbreaks”, The Washington Post wrote in an article.
People who shy away from alleging the fudging are calling it a ‘mystery’ while Modi sympathizers say it shows the country is doing a lot better than many others in the world. That works a bit (because infections numbers are still skyrocketing daily) better to reassure the worried population who look confused but still endeavour to follow that the health experts are advising.
Some experts say the Indian data on deaths is certain to be incomplete because majority (more than 65% of India’s population lives in rural India) dying in rural areas are far less likely to be tested or diagnosed and thus recorded.
One factor which can explain the low numbers is the fact of India’s predominantly youthful population. According to the most recent census, only 5 percent of Indians were 65 or older, while more than half were under age 25. And more than 65% of its population is below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. And with the initial observations that the virus was attacking older people more severely, the younger population does offer one reason of possible low real numbers.
The other fact which can explain better immunity of Indians is the policy of Tuberculosis vaccination given to its population which, as the studies are suggesting, improves human immunity greatly.
Whatever the explanation, the facts seem to suggest that whether because of ‘fudging of data or carelessness/incompetence of systems in place in India to record, the true number of deaths as well as infections is more than likely to be higher than recorded.
Raul Rabadan, a professor of systems biology at Columbia University and the author of a recently released book on understanding the coronavirus has called it a “paradox”.