Even after more than a year of destruction coronavirus peaks around the world, the intensity and scale of IndiaThe current crisis is striking, with patients desperate for oxygen shortage, making pleas help out from overwhelmed hospitals, and Pictures of body bags and funeral pyres.
As the number of daily cases goes well beyond what other countries have reported, experts warn that the official COVID-19 figures of the world’s second-most populous country in the world are likely to be a massive under-figure. But why is India’s data considered incorrect? Is the data less accurate than what other countries report? And which figures give a good indication of the crisis?
DOES INDIA COUNT EVERY CASE?
India does not count all coronavirus cases, but no country can. Around the world, official figures generally only report confirmed cases, not actual infections. Cases are missed because testing is so haphazard and because some people infected by the coronavirus experience mild or even no symptoms.
The more limited the testing, the more cases are missed. The World Health Organization says countries should do 10 to 30 tests per confirmed case.
According to India, India is running about five tests for each confirmed case Our world in data, an online research site. The US is conducting 17 tests per confirmed case. Finland carries out 57 tests per confirmed case.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t get tested,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto. “Entire houses are infected. If one person is tested in the house and reports positive and everyone else in the house is starting to have symptoms, it is clear that they have COVID, so why should you be tested?”
Jha estimates, based on models of a previous rise in India, the actual number of infections could be 10 times higher than the official reports.
WHAT ABOUT DEATH?
Deaths are a better indicator of the shape of the pandemic curve, Jha said, but there are issues with the data here too.
“The biggest divide is what’s going on in rural India,” said Jha. In rural areas, people often die at home without medical care, and these deaths are underreported. Families bury or cremate their loved ones themselves without any official record. Seventy percent of all-cause deaths in the country occur in rural India in any given year.
Counting rural deaths can be done since Jha’s work with the Million Death Study has shown. The pre-pandemic project used personal surveys to count deaths in rural India, recording details of symptoms and conditions with the results of the ” oral autopsies “reviewed and registered by doctors.
Many low- and middle-income countries have similar under-death data, Jha said, but India could do better.
“It’s a country that has a space program. Counting the dead is a basic function,” he said. “India should do much, much better.”
DOES IT MATTER?
Knowing the magnitude and magnitude of the outbreak and how it is changing will help governments and health officials plan their responses.
Even with the known issues with the data, the trajectory of COVID-19 cases and deaths in India is an alarming reminder of how the virus could shoot through a largely unvaccinated population if precautions are lifted.
“What happens in India matters to the whole world,” said Dr. Amita Gupta, president of the Johns Hopkins India Institute in a statement. Facebook conversation Thursday. “We care from a humanitarian perspective, from a public health perspective and from a health protection perspective.”