Excess deaths in Gujarat double official COVID-19 mortality during first wave: Study

  • | Thursday | 18th August, 2022

New Delhi, Aug 18 (PTI) The number of excess deaths across 90 of Gujarat"s 162 municipalities from March 2020 to April 2021 were double the state"s official COVID-19 mortality numbers for the period, according to a study. Excess mortality is defined as the increase in observed death counts compared to expected mortality. The researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, US, and collaborators used data from civil death registers from 90 of 162 municipalities across Gujarat, to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all-cause mortality. The study, published on Tuesday in the journal PLOS Global Public Health, estimated excess mortality over the course of the pandemic from March 2020 to April 2021. "We estimated 21,300 excess deaths across these 90 municipalities in this period, representing a 44 per cent increase over the expected baseline," the authors of the study noted. "The vast majority of these excess deaths likely represent direct deaths from COVID-19 in the absence of any other known catastrophe," they said. During this period, the official government data reported 10,098 deaths attributable to COVID-19 for the entire Gujarat, the researchers said. The researchers said a small percentage of these numbers would include deaths from the indirect impact of the pandemic, and from causes unrelated to the pandemic. The sharpest increase in deaths was observed in late April 2021, with an estimated 678 per cent increase in mortality from expected counts. The study found the highest increase in mortality was seen in the 40 to 65 age group relative to the other age groups. Based on the 2011 census, the excess mortality estimate for these 90 municipalities represents approximately at least 8 per cent of the population, the researchers said. It exceeds the official COVID-19 death count for the entire state of Gujarat, even before the Delta wave of the pandemic in India peaked in May 2021, they said. Prior studies have concluded that true pandemic-related mortality in India greatly exceeds official counts. The Union health ministry has over the past year challenged such estimates and the underlying estimation methodology. "This study, using data directly from the first point of official death registration data recording, provides incontrovertible evidence of the high excess mortality in Gujarat from March 2020 to April 2021," the authors said. In addition to Harvard University, the team also included researchers from National Foundation for India, New Delhi, Stanford University School of Medicine, and University of California, Berkeley, US. PTI SAR SAR


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