India’s true COVID-19 death toll may be closer to 4 million – 10 times higher than the official count – according to a new study

india coronavirus
A critical patient who tested positive for COVID-19 is been taken to an ICU unit at a COVID-19 care hospital in Kolkata, India, on April 22, 2021.

  • A new study estimated India’s true COVID-19 death toll may be closer to 4 million people.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic.
  • Less than 7% of India’s population of 1.4 billion people are vaccinated, according to the report.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The true COVID-19 death toll in India is close to 4 million people – 10 times higher than the official toll – according to a new study published Tuesday.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Global Development, a research institute based in Washington, DC.

Researchers estimated that, in total, India’s true death toll between January 2020 and June 2021 was between 3.4 and 4.7 million people, with up to 4 million of those deaths being solely due to COVID-19.

India’s official COVID-19 death toll is more than 400,000, The New York Times reported. As of Tuesday, the country also reported 40,000 new COVID-19 cases and close to 500 deaths a day, according to a Times database.

“Estimating Covid deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive,” the researchers wrote. “But all estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000; they also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than is believed.”

According to the study, the authors reached their conclusion by analyzing state data in India, serological studies, international estimates, and through a series of household surveys.

With less than 7% of India’s population of 1.4 billion people vaccinated, experts said it could present concerning scenarios.

The Indian government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been routinely criticized for under-counting COVID-19 deaths during different surges and for refusing lockdown measures. One of the authors of the study formerly served as chief economic adviser to the government during Modi’s term.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy,” the study’s authors wrote.

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India’s COVID-19 death toll reaches a grim milestone with a new record of more than 4,000 deaths reported on Saturday

india covid second wave
A woman is consoled after her husband died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a mortuary of a COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India, April 15, 2021.

More Indian states are heading into lockdown to help curb surging coronavirus infections as the daily death toll climbed past 4,000 on Saturday, CNN reported.

India’s health ministry reported a record 4,187 deaths attributed to COVID-19 on Saturday and more than 400,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, a global record. Saturday’s report marked the third straight 24-hour period in which the number of cases was above 400,000.

Since the start of the pandemic, India has recorded more than 21 million cases and 238,000 related deaths. Experts think that number is likely a significant undercount.

Tamil Nadu is the latest state to announce a two-week lockdown starting Monday, CNN reported, and will close all non-essential businesses. Restaurants and grocery stores will have limited hours of operation during lockdown. The southern state saw its biggest spike in cases on Friday at 26,465 newly reported in the 24-hour period.

Several other states, including Kerala and Rajasthan, have imposed similar lockdowns in hopes of curbing the nationwide surge. Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose a national lockdown, something he has insisted would be the last resort.

“In today’s situation, we have to save the country from lockdown. I would request states to use a lockdown as their last option. We have to try hard to avoid lockdowns and focus only on micro containment zones,” Modi said in late April.

The country’s record-breaking surge has been attributed to a rise in more contagious variants as well as large political and religious gatherings earlier this year.

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The leader of one of the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturers said he fled India because of menacing threats

Serum Institute of India's CEO Adar Poonawalla.
Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawalla.

  • Adar Poonawalla, the leader of a major vaccine manufacturer, said he fled India due to threats.
  • Poonawalla leads the Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
  • The COVID-19 situation in India is so dire that Poonawalla said people have been hurling threats at him, accusing him of delaying vaccines on purpose.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The CEO of the Serum Institute, a vaccine manufacturer in India, said he fled the country because of incessant threats against him.

In an interview with the Times of London, Adar Poonawalla said he went to England to escape threats from people claiming he’s holding up vaccines.

“‘Threats’ is an understatement,” Poonawalla said. “The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented.”

“It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them,” he added. “They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine it’s not going to be good. It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply.”

The Serum Institute is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, producing more than 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine every month.

At the time of his interview, Poonawalla said he’d stay in England for “an extended time, because I don’t want to go back to that situation.”

“Everything falls on my shoulders, but I can’t do it alone,” he added.

Hours after the interview was published, Poonawalla backtracked and wrote on Twitter that he’d return to India “in a few days.”

The news of his departure from India comes as the country experiences deep surges in positive COVID-19 cases.

The nation reported a record high of 401,993 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. No other country has breached 400,000 daily cases.

Crematoriums across India are overwhelmed with bodies. Patients are dying as hospitals run out of oxygen. The country had reported more than 300,000 new cases each day for nine consecutive days before hitting the 400,000 mark.

India also reported more than 3,500 deaths on Saturday – the fourth day in a row that death counts have surpassed 3,000. Those numbers are likely an undercount. A New York Times investigation published this week found “mounting evidence” that suggested fatalities are being “overlooked or downplayed” by the government.

The situation has gotten so bad that people have surrounded his company multiple times and called him a “profiteer” of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad,” Poonawalla said in the interview.

Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed to this report.

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The COVID-19 death toll in India could be up to 10 times higher than the official 200,000 figure, experts say

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India’s second coronavirus wave is rapidly sliding into a devastating and deadly crisis.

  • This week, India’s official COVID-19 death toll passed 200,000, according to government figures.
  • However experts worry the death toll could be five to 10 times higher, multiple reports say.
  • Morgues are so overwhelmed that bodies have had to be cremated in makeshift pyres in parking lots.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Medical experts and frontline workers are casting doubt over India’s official COVID-19 death toll as the country passed its 200,000 mark on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

India, which is in the midst of a devastating second coronavirus wave, reported 3,498 deaths on Thursday, according to health ministry data. It was the third day in a row the country recorded more than 3,000 deaths a day.

But medical experts and frontline workers worry the actual death toll may actually be much higher.

Read more: Hospitals in India are turning patients away and COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing. But Prime Minister Modi is on the campaign trail and ignoring the crisis.

A New York Times investigation published this week found “mounting evidence” that suggested fatalities are being “overlooked or downplayed” by the government.

“It’s a complete massacre of data,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, told the Times. “From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported.”

Experts interviewed by Reuters have suggested the death toll could even be between five to 10 times higher than what is being reported.

A Sky News investigation found that deaths were being underreported in several crematoriums across the capital, New Dehli. Funeral workers told Sky News that they’ve “been told to give [lower] numbers by higher authorities.”

Dr Manas Gumta, the general secretary of the Association of Health Service Doctors, West Bengal, told the Observer this week: “A huge suspected COVID-positive population is certainly staying away from the tests. I believe the actual number of people dying of COVID is two to three times higher than what the government is reporting.”

As COVID-19 deaths surge in the country, crematory workers say they have become overburdened.

Some cities have turned parks and parking lots into makeshift crematoriums to keep up with the abundance of bodies.

In the Seemapuri crematorium in New Dehli, the staff has been so overwhelmed they’ve launched a ticketing system, CNN reported.

Jitender Signh Shunty, who runs a service in New Dehli, told Insider he’s getting only two hours of sleep a night.

“These days I don’t even get two hours of sleep,” he said. “At 7 a.m. I come here, I start dispatching ambulances, or I arrange for a dead body to be picked up, then get it cremated.”

Shunty, who says he used to only cremate 10 bodies a day, now estimates that number to be around 90.

“I can work 21 out of 24 hours a day – I am not the kind of person who breaks down easily,” Shunty added. “But in this wave of the coronavirus, I’ve seen the dead bodies of small children and women who have become widows at a young age. They all have died for no good reason.”

At the time of writing, India has reported more than 19 million cases and more than 211,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

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India’s surging Covid-19 cases shouldn’t dissuade investors from buying emerging markets equities, UBS Wealth Management says

india covid-19 crisis
A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 is consoled by another during cremation in Jammu, India, Sunday, April 25, 2021.

  • India reported more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day on Tuesday.
  • Despite COVID-19 risks, UBS says investors should maintain a risk-on stance to emerging markets.
  • India is geared to global trends and long-term growth, according to Mark Haefele, the CIO of UBS global wealth management.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

In a note to clients on Tuesday, UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief investment officer Mark Haefele said that despite a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in India, emerging markets are still attractive for investors.

On Tuesday, India reported more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day.

While case figures in Europe and North America continue to fall, South East Asia has seen a dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections over the past three weeks, according to data from the World Health Organization.

The situation is so dire in India that President Biden has said he will send vaccine supplies, masks, oxygen, and therapeutics to help the country battle the virus.

While Haefele did say rising case figures will be a headwind for the region, the chief investment officer also believes there are “several reasons for a continued positive stance on EM (Emerging Markets) equities.”

Here are the three main reasons why Haefele says investors should be “risk-on” when it comes to emerging markets.

“India’s equity market is geared to global trends and long-term structural growth.”

According to UBS, India now has a nearly 10% weighting within emerging market equity indexes, but that weighting is largely tied to IT companies that do business with the US, so much of it could be shielded from the worst effects of COVID-19.

Additionally, UBS says Indian companies are focused on the long-term growth story and don’t actively trade shares in speculative moves, which bodes well for long-term investors.

Haefele also said that precedence shows COVID-19 surges can be “reined in” within a few months. The firm remains overweight Indian equities.

“China tech regulatory risk appears to be clearing.”

China has a near 40% weighting in emerging market equities, making it one of the most important regions for investors.

UBS believes Chinese tech companies have surpassed recent government regulation hurdles and are poised to post “above-average, double-digit earnings growth” over the medium to long term as investors focus more on fundamentals.

“We see tech regulatory risks receding, with policymakers aiming to constrain monopolistic practices, not curb tech growth,” Haefele said.

“A stronger dollar, higher Treasuries won’t upend EM risk assets.”

Emerging market equities usually struggle when the dollar is strong, but according to Haefele and UBS, the dollar is set to continue on a depreciation trend as the global economic recovery favors “pro-risk” currencies like the Euro.

Haefele also believes the fed will maintain dovish policies and Treasury yields won’t rise above 2% this year, which should help stocks around the world outperform.

Haefele advised positioning for reopening and reflation through value and cyclical stocks in Asia, with a focus on capital goods, construction materials, consumer services, transportation, banks, and metals & mining.

“EM value stocks have traded at a heavy discount over the past decade, leaving room for a recovery rally,” Haefele said.

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