The Union Health Ministry on Saturday rubbished The Economist's recent report on COVID-19 death toll in India as "purely speculative". The report had claimed that "the government's numbers represent a disturbingly small fraction of the real figure".
"It is noted that a renowned international magazine in its article has speculated that 'India has suffered perhaps five to seven times excess deaths than the official number of COVID-19 fatalities'. It is a speculative article, which is without any basis and seems to be misinformed," the Ministry said.
The Ministry added that the report is "devoid of any epidemiological or scientific evidence". It further said that the tools used by the magazine "are not validated for determining mortality rate of any country or region".
"The so called 'evidence' cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. An internet search of research studies in scientific database such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine," the Ministry said.
"Another evidence given is the study done in Telengana based on insurance claims. Again, there is no peer reviewed scientific data available on such study," it added.
"Two other studies relied upon are those done by Psephology groups namely 'Prashnam' and 'C-Voter' who are well versed in conducting, predicting and analysing poll results. They were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times," the Ministry further said.
The Union Health Ministry said that the government has been transparent in its approach to COVID data management. It said the Union Health Ministry has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. States consistently reporting lower number of daily deaths were told to re-check their data, it said.
"It’s a well-known fact that there shall always be difference in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as COVID pandemic and well conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources," the Ministry further said.