Imprimir Republish


Death toll underestimated in India

Pilgrims gather at the mouth of the Ganges River for the Gangasagar Mela religious festival in January this year

Phil Walters / Getty Images

Since the pandemic began, India’s official death toll has drawn attention for being proportionately much lower than the rest of the world. Some experts believed the country may have been lucky. Others suspected underreporting. At the end of 2021, the Indian government had recorded 480,000 deaths from COVID-19, corresponding to 340 deaths per million people, almost seven times lower than the rate in the USA. Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist from the University of Toronto, Canada, worked in partnership with researchers from India and the USA to redo the calculations using official data and alternative information, such as the results of a telephone survey that asked 140,000 Indians if someone in their homes had died from COVID-19. Jha’s results were six to seven times higher than the official figures, finding that at least 3.2 million Indians have died from COVID-19, equivalent to 60% of the 5.5 million deaths recorded worldwide (Science, January 6).