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The death toll associated with Covid-19 directly or indirectly may have climbed to almost 1.5 crore between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 across the globe, according to a new estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The figure is almost three times the official count (54 lakh) of deaths directly attributable to Covid-19 and reported to WHO in that period.

The new figures reflect people who died of Covid-19 as well as those who died as an indirect result of the outbreak, including people who could not access healthcare for other conditions. 

WHO says that the numbers are also far higher because of deaths that were missed in countries without adequate reporting. Even pre-pandemic, around six in 10 deaths around the world were not registered.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Death toll in India

Breaking down the data, the UN health agency has said that almost half of the deaths that until now had not been counted were in India. The report suggests that 47 lakh people died in the country as a result of the pandemic, mainly during a huge surge in May and June 2021.

The central government, however, puts its death toll for the January 2020-December 2021 period far lower – about 4,80,000.

According to the Union health ministry data, in 2020, when Covid-19 was first reported in the country, 1.48 lakh people lost their lives due to the pandemic, which is substantially lower than in 2021, when 3.32 lakh people died due to the disease.

The government has also pushed back against the WHO estimates and raised objections to classify India as a Tier 2 country.

WHO says all countries that made available their full all-cause mortality data for the pandemic period were classified as Tier 1. India is in Tier 2 because it did not share official data with WHO.

After the data was released, the Centre said: “Despite India’s strong objection to the use of mathematical models for projecting excess mortality estimates, WHO has released excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns. The validity of models used and data methodology is questionable."

The WHO has said that it had not yet fully examined new data provided this week by India. The agency plans to update its estimate as more data emerge.

 

 

 

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