More than two years into the pandemic and experts are still attempting to calculate an accurate number of Covid-19 deaths worldwide – but new claims suggest it could be more than double the estimated amount of 6 million.
At the end of 2021, the true COVID-19 death toll could have been around 15 million, the World Health Organisation (WHO) claims, however, the data has not been publicly released, the New York Times reported.
Claims suggest some countries, including India and China, have vastly under-reported deaths, with one medical expert calling China's death toll from Covid "ridiculous."
The dispute in numbers have reportedly resulted in months-long delays in releasing the data to the public.
According to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his country's death toll is 520,000.
However, more than a third of the additional nine million deaths are estimated to have occurred in India, increasing the number to at least four million. This would give India the highest tally in the world, people familiar with the data reportedly said.
Professor Sanjeev Bagai from New Delhi questioned WHO's methodology in calculating the global death toll, and for calling out India while speaking on India’s Mirror Now.
It's believed the WHO used a combination of national data, new information from various areas and surveys from households to reach its total, News.com.au reports.
This information also took into account "missed fatalities" and "indirect deaths," including those who weren't granted medical care for other health issues.
India dismisses Covid claims: 'Ridiculous'
Professor Bagai said there is "no collaborative effort in a scientific basis across various countries" and suggested the research has "limitations."
"All countries cannot be treated alike. Almost 80 per cent of the world’s countries don’t have the health records which are digitalised, it’s almost virtually impossible to get a near accurate figure" he said.
"Under-reporting or underestimating of Covid deaths is a global phenomena, it’s not just India centric… The cruellest joke on the world is that China has reported less than 5000 deaths, I mean this is ridiculous."
China has long been accused of underreporting its death toll, initially to mask the severity of the virus and later to portray a successful pandemic response.
Virologist Jin Dong-yan says China has refused to classify any deaths where the victim has previous health issues as Covid-19 fatalities, a rule which has continued amid Shanghai's Covid wave now, the Financial Times reported.
"The numbers are not accurate, but Shanghai hospitals are not necessarily doing this on purpose. From the start, China had this method of recording deaths," he said.
India's Ministry of Health hit out at claims which suggest India is "stalling the WHO’s efforts to make global Covid death toll public".
In a press release, the ministry claimed India does not just question the result of the analysis but the methodology itself.
The ministry said that the "one size fits all" approach may work in smaller countries, but it may not be applicable to India, which has a population of over 1.3 billion.
It's believed Indonesia and Egypt are among the countries that have under-counted covid-related fatalities.
Russia reported 300,000 Covid deaths by the end of 2021, it's been claimed, and in April this year, Reuters reported 778,000 since the start of the pandemic in April 2020.
The death toll hit a record monthly high of nearly 90,000 in November, making Russia second for the highest number of fatalities worldwide, behind the United States,
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