Further, the ministry informed that excess mortality is a term used to describe an all-cause mortality figure, and attributing these deaths to COVID-19 is completely misleading. The reports assume that all the excess mortality figures are COVID deaths, which is not based on facts and totally fallacious.
“India has a thorough contact tracing strategy. All the primary contacts, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic are tested for COVID-19. The true detected cases are the ones that test positive with RT PCR, which is the gold standard of the COVID-19 test. In addition to the contacts, given the vast availability of more than 2700 testing laboratories in the country, anyone who wants to get tested is able to get the test done. This coupled with vast IEC about the symptoms and access to medical care has ensured people could reach out to hospitals in case of need,” the ministry said.
Highlighting that robust and statute-based Death Registration System in India, the ministry said, “Some cases could go undetected as per the principles of infectious disease and its management, missing out on the deaths is unlikely. This could also be seen in the case fatality rate, which, as of 31 st December 2020, stood at 1.45 percent, and even after an unexpected surge observed in the second wave in April- May 2021, the case fatality rate today stands at 1.34 percent.”
Reporting of daily new cases and deaths in India follows a bottom-up approach, the Health Ministry statement indicated that districts report the number of cases, deaths to the State Governments and to the Health Ministry on a continuous basis.
“As early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency or confusion in the number of deaths being reported, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued ‘Guidance for the appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths by States, UTs as per ICD-10 codes recommended by WHO for mortality coding. The Health Ministry has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. States have been advised to conduct thorough audits in their hospitals and report any cases or deaths that could have been missed with a district and date-wise details so as to guide a data-driven decision making,” the statement said.
In addition, the robustness of the statute based Civil Registration System (CRS) ensures all the births and deaths in the country get registered. The CRS follows a process of data collection, cleaning, collating, and publishing the numbers, which although is a long time- consuming process, ensures no deaths are missed out. For the expanse and the amplitude of the activity, the numbers are usually published the next year, the ministry stated.
“It is a well-known fact that there shall always be differences in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as COVID pandemic and well-conducted research studies on mortalities are usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources. The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality,” the Union Health Ministry added.
Recently Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) refuted allegations of hiding COVID-19 deaths and said that the Central government only compiles and publishes data sent by the state governments.