India’s official coronavirus death toll is widely believed to be a massive undercount, but by how much is an open question. According to a New York Times analysis, the real number of deaths could be over 1 million ― or even higher.
Officially, about 310,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the nation of about 1.4 billion.
Testing limitations in India, however, mean that many have died without ever receiving a coronavirus test, so their deaths are not likely to be included in official tallies.
By The New York Times’ most conservative estimate, India’s true death toll is closer to 600,000, or double the official count. A “more likely” scenario estimates the true number of dead to be 1.6 million, and an even worse-case estimate puts the true number of Indian coronavirus victims at 4.2 million.
The paper says it consulted more than a dozen experts on the estimates.
By comparison, the United States has recorded about 590,000 deaths from the virus, which is also suspected to be an undercount, in a population of about 332 million.
On Friday, the World Health Organization said the real global death toll from the virus could be two to three times higher than reported ― putting it in the range of 6 million to 10 million worldwide.
Reports out of India show a country that is still largely overwhelmed by the virus and struggling to secure enough vaccine supply for all of its residents, some of whom lack the resources to make online appointments. So far, only about 3% of India’s population has been vaccinated as the rollout has put the nation’s poorest at a huge disadvantage.
Earlier this month, hundreds of bodies started to surface along the Ganges river ― at least some of whom are suspected to be coronavirus victims whose families were forced to take extreme measures amid skyrocketing cremation costs.
India set the record for the highest number of daily coronavirus deaths just last week, reporting 4,529 deaths in one 24-hour period.
Yet there may be hope on the horizon: Cases appear to be leveling off.
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