India May Have Lost 40 Lakh Lives, Not 3 Lakh As Officially Reported: NYT

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently observed that global coronavirus-related deaths could actually be 6 to 8 million, whereas the official figure was about 3.5 million.

Many believe that fatalities are under-reported from several countries, including India, for various reasons.

Now, one of the world’s leading news organizations New York Times (NYT) has stated that the COVID-19 toll in India could well be around 40 lakh, rather than the officially reported figure of 3 lakh.

In a report titled ‘Just How Big Could India’s True Covid Toll Be?’ NYT has observed ‘poor record-keeping’, ‘lack of widespread testing’ and ‘grossly understating the true state of the pandemic’ during the alarming second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

To get an estimate of what could be a realistic picture, NYT spoke to a dozen experts in an attempt to analyse number of cases and deaths.

Large-scale antibody tests have also been taken into consideration to arrive at estimates.

“It gives us a starting point. I think that an exercise like this can put some bounds on the estimates,” Dan Weinberger, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, told NYT.

The report studied official data two days ago to compare with probable estimates. As on May 24, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare stated that there were 2,69,48,800 cases of COVID-19 in the country and 3,07,231 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.

NYT also used data from three nationwide antibody tests, called serosurveys, each of which saw 30,000 people being examined for COVID-19 antibodies.


According to a conservative estimate – or ‘best-case scenario’ — arrived at by the article, the aggregate cases is 15 times higher than official figures. That is, the NYT report suggests 40.42 crore COVID infections in India as opposed to the official figure of 2.6 crore cases.

Total fatalities point towards 6 lakh – twice the number of deaths officially reported.


The report uses the latest seroprevalence in India, which happened in January 2021, and estimated roughly 26 infections per reported case.

The article then gives a “more likely scenario”, using a slightly lower figure than the 26 in latest seroprevalence in India — which took place in January 2021 — to calculate infections and fatality rate.

According to these estimates, total number of COVID cases in India is 20 times higher (53.9 crore) than official figures (2.6 crore).

Number of deaths in the country as per this calculation is more than five times (16 lakh) higher than official figures (3 lakh).


The article also comes up with a “worse scenario” where the infection-fatality rate has increased to double the previous one at 0.6 per cent.

This study takes into account India’s heavily-stressed healthcare system, which faced shortage of oxygen, hospital beds and key drugs during the damaging second wave.

This estimate observes that a larger percentage of those who got infected are not getting access to medical infrastructure, and dying.

This estimate suggests the number of total COVID cases in India is 26 times higher (70.07 crore) than official figures (2.6 crore), while deaths are almost 14 times (42 lakh) more than official stats (3 lakh).

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