As India reports a sharp decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases, data indicates that the actual number of infections and deaths could be much higher. Officially, the country has accumulated, until Sunday (20), 386,713 victims of the coronavirus, in addition to more than 29.8 million infections, but successive studies with models developed by epidemiologists show that the count of deaths is extremely superior.
On June 9, the state of Bihar, led by the Indian People’s Party (BJP), legend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, revised the number of coronavirus deaths in April and May from 5,424 to 9,375. update came after hundreds of swollen and disfigured bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients were found floating in the Ganges.
Data from Bihar’s civil registration system, however, reveals that 74,808 people died in the state from unknown causes in the first five months of 2021, a period that coincides with the second deadly wave of Covid in the country. That figure is nearly ten times the official death toll from the pandemic in the region between January and May of this year.
That figure could be even higher because, even before the pandemic hit India, only a third of deaths were officially recorded. Worse, that number may also have fallen as people often refused to go to the hospital for fear of contracting the virus.
In 2021, there was also the advance of the delta variant, detected for the first time in India. Studies show that this mutation is more contagious and generates more complications, which increases the need for hospitalization.
India is heavily criticized by the local scientific community for hiding crisis data and claiming victory against the pandemic last year. Authorities mistakenly attributed the “extinction” of Covid to a kind of natural immunity Indians would have from exposure to other viruses.
This statement, repeated by senior government officials to state officials, created complacency that Covid would not return to the country. But the second wave spread, filling hospitals and crematoria and forcing poor families to throw dead loved ones into the river or bury them on the banks.
Thousands of bodies deposited in shallow graves on the banks of the Ganges in the state of Uttar Pradesh have been exposed after rains in early May washed away the earth. Residents say most of the bodies are Covid patients who died at home without receiving treatment and whose families threw them into the river because they couldn’t afford a proper funeral.
Another indication of under-reporting in the country is the case of Andhra Pradesh in the south, which recorded a total of more than 130,000 deaths in May, nearly five times the number of deaths in the same months in 2018 and 2019. number of deaths in the state from Covid-19, however, it is 12,269.
Shahid Jameel, a well-known virologist who recently stepped down as head of India’s Sars-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium, said the country reported a death toll of between one-fifth and one-tenth of the actual, because even in normal times, deaths are not recorded accurately.
“Although the curve seems to have flattened, it’s too early to tell. We have to wait and see if this little downtrend exists or not,” says Jameel. The Indian government, in turn, says the drop in cases is due to the imposition of lockdowns and the advance of vaccination, but so far only 3.6% of the 1.3 billion people of the country were fully immunized, and 16.3% received the first dose.
According to the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, India must vaccinate at least 50% of its population to obtain herd immunity. The government has announced that it will immunize 1 billion people by December, implying a demand for production of more than 2 billion doses.
Even if each of the country’s three vaccine makers – Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute and Dr. Reddy’s – plan to increase monthly production to 100 million drugs by August, India would still face a sizable shortfall. In terms of blockages, blockades in the second wave were more effective and less painful, especially for migrant workers, who had to walk hundreds of kilometers to return to their areas after Modi suddenly announced the first measure. time. However, the government itself allowed religious holidays and rallies to be held, which turned out to be super-spread events, affecting the effectiveness of the blockades.
The first reports of the underreporting of Covid deaths have surfaced in Gujarat, the prime minister’s home state, after the opposition Congress Party accused officials of underestimating at least 61,000 deaths since March 1. Long lines of corpses in crematoria led opposition MP Naushad Solanki to seek information directly from municipal bodies.
“I was wondering what was killing these people. Did anyone drop bombs or what?” Solanki told Folha. The figures obtained by him have revealed frightening discrepancies, and the actual data, according to the lawmaker, is 25 times higher than the officially announced figures.
Research agency C-Voter estimated last month that at least 1.8 million people in India may have died from Covid-19, placing the country ahead of the United States and Brazil in the global death rankings . According to the General Registry of India, only 77% of deaths across the country are officially registered, and only 22% of them are certified by doctors.
“There is fear among health officials, and therefore they report fewer deaths. They face many obstacles,” said Professor Giridhar R. Babu of the Public Health Foundation of India. “This fear must be replaced with information showing that real data is very important against Covid.”
Babu says Indian states that hide Covid cases and deaths are weakening the population by not detecting the infection when it is already happening, which would allow the infected person to have access to adequate treatment for the disease. disease. For Babu, when the government fails to collect accurate data, existing inequalities in the country are magnified.
As restrictions caused by the disastrous second wave of infections in India are relaxed, with states releasing activities, the probable third wave of infections has already entered the radar of the public and the scientific community, and a new high would hit the country in the next six to eight weeks.
The situation seems so dire that even the state of Maharashtra, the epicenter of the country’s second wave of coronavirus, predicts the number of cases will double.