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Why is India’s coronavirus data countless?

Even after more than a year of the global deadly coronavirus outbreak. But the severity and magnitude of India’s current crisis is still striking, with patients desperate for short supply of oxygen seeking help from hospitals with the deceased and images of corpse bags and corpses.

As the number of daily cases is higher than what other countries have reported, experts warn that official COVID-19 numbers from the world’s second-most populous country are likely to be large. But why is India’s information considered inaccurate? Is the information less accurate than what other countries report? And what numbers are very good indications of the crisis?

Does India count every case?

India does not count all cases of the coronavirus. But no nation can do it Globally, the official rankings usually report only confirmed cases, not an actual infection. Missed the case because testing was accidental and because some people with coronavirus had mild or no symptoms at all.

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The more the test is limited, the more cases are missed. The World Health Organization says countries should perform 10 to 30 tests per confirmed case.

India is conducting approximately five tests for all cases confirmed, according to the online research site Our World in Data. The US is conducting 17 tests per confirmed cases. Finland is conducting 57 tests per confirmed case.

May 1, 2021: The body of a COVID-19 victim is covered with a white cloth next to another victim's cremation fire in Phraya Racha, India.

May 1, 2021: The body of a COVID-19 victim is covered with a white cloth next to another victim’s cremation fire in Phraya Racha, India.
(AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh)

“There are still many people who have not been tested,” said Dr. Prabhatja from the University of Toronto. “The whole house is infected. If someone has a home exam and reports they are positive and the rest of the house has started to show symptoms that they have COVID, why get it?”

Jha estimated, based on modeling from previous increases in India, the true number of infections could be 10 times higher than the official report.

What about death?

Jha said the death was a better indicator of the shape of the outbreak. But there are also problems with the data.

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“The biggest gap is what’s happening in rural India,” Jha said. In rural areas, people often die at home without medical attention, and these deaths have been highly reported. Families bury or cremate loved ones without official records. Seventy percent of the country’s deaths from all causes occur in rural India in any given year.

Counting the number of rural deaths can be done, as Jha’s work with the Million Death Study has shown. The pre-pandemic program uses a self-assessment to count the number of deaths in rural India, detailing symptoms and situations with the outcome of the pandemic. “Verbal autopsy” examined and recorded by doctors.

Several low and middle-income countries have similar deaths, Jha said, but India did better.

“It’s a country with a space program, just counting the dead is a very basic function,” he said. “India could do much better.”

Is it important or not?

How can knowing the size and extent of the outbreak and its transition help governments and health workers plan their response?

Despite a known issue with the data But the trajectory of COVID-19 cases and mortality in India is a reminder of how the virus can spread through a large majority of the unvaccinated population when preventive measures are added.

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“What’s happening in India is important to the world,” said Dr. Amita Gupta, president of the Johns Hopkins India Institute, in a Facebook conversation on Thursday. “We care from a humanitarian perspective, a public health perspective, and a health security perspective.”

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