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India's COVID-related death toll vastly underreported, could be as high as 3 million, study

The official government numbers for the death toll have been called into question multiple times.

Updated: July 21, 2021 - 12:58pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

India's official COVID-related death toll has been largely undercounted, according to a new study that suggested the number could be at least seven-time higher than the estimated 400,000.

The Center for Global Development report released Thursday says the number of deaths in the hard-hit country could be as high as 3 million from January 2020 and June 2021, marking one of the worst human tragedies in the country’s history. 

The study looked at state data, international estimates, serological studies and household surveys to calculate the excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic, according to The New York Times.


“Estimating Covid deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive,” the authors of the study wrote. 

The virus numbers are expected to increase as scientists say a third wave of COVID-19 infections could hit the country in August.

“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,” the authors also said, as reported by The Times.

India has about 40,000 new cases and roughly 500 deaths per day, according to The Times database. The lack of oxygen, vaccines and beds led to an increase in the death toll.

The lack of accuracy in the death toll count could have resulted from India's resources being “spread out in time” after the first wave of the virus, according to authors of the study, as opposed to the second wave in which thousands of people died from shortages.

 About only 7% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated.