In India, the battle of numbers around the Covid-19 puts the Parliament in turmoil

The battle over the numbers of the Covid-19 pandemic is raging in India. Thanks to the parliamentary session which is traditionally held in July in New Delhi, under the monsoon rains, the opposition has been shooting red bullets, since Monday, July 19, on the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi. She accuses him of continuing to deliberately lie about the scale of the disaster that strikes the second most populous country on the planet (1.38 billion inhabitants).

According to Mallikarjuna Kharge, leader of the left in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, the death toll, officially established at 418,380 on July 21, is “false”, the number of victims cannot, according to his calculations , not be less than 5.24 million. Very political, this position has nonetheless been confirmed by recent scientific studies. Tuesday, July 20, the publication of a report by the Center for Global Development in Washington had the effect of a bomb.

Distorted statistics

Co-signed by Modi’s former chief economic adviser, the well-respected Arvind Subramanian, this document affirms that, since April 2020, the excess mortality observed in India represents a cumulative “between 3.4 and 4.9 million” of people. “In truth, the bad decisions of the government during the second wave killed 5 million of our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers”, commented on Twitter the leader of the opposition, Rahul Gandhi.

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As if it were necessary to prove that the statistics are distorted, several states of the Indian union are in the process of revising their results of the pandemic upwards. On Tuesday, Maharashtra (112 million inhabitants) announced that it had “discovered” 3,509 deaths from Covid-19 who had not been counted. The day before, Himachal Pradesh had admitted that its figures were undoubtedly underestimated “by half”. Other states admit to being far from the mark: Karnataka considers that the numbers of its deaths should be multiplied by 4.3, Haryana by 7.3, Andhra Pradesh by 17.9, Madhya Pradesh by. .. 23.8!

Shortage of vaccines

Against the wall, the brand new Minister of Health, Mansukh Mandaviya, is justifying himself as best he can. He considers that the Modi government is, at the federal level, “not responsible” for the collection of data and has “no interest in hiding” the results of the epidemic. The Prime Minister prefers to brush aside the controversy with the back of his hand. “The pandemic is a matter of concern for all of humanity, it should not be a political issue,” Narendra Modi told the national representation. But it does not explain why India seems apparently spared, given its huge population: the country deplores “only” 300 deaths from Covid-19 per million inhabitants, when Peru counts 5,921, the Brazil 2,560, the United States 1,841 and France 1,653, according to the Our World in Data site.

The nationalist leader on the other hand asked the deputies of his party, the BJP, to “systematically denounce the allegations of the opposition” on the management of the epidemic in general, and on the availability of vaccines in particular, the other subject. controversy. However, the reality is there: while 300 million Indians should have been vaccinated between January and August, only 86.7 million people received two doses, at the last tally (July 19) of the Ministry of Health. Or 6.28% of the population. And by the end of the year, the country will have at best 1.35 billion doses – enough to immunize just half of Indians.

Two out of three Indians infected

In the field, vaccination centers are in short supply and close regularly for two or three days, time to restock. In addition, a serological field study carried out in June and July with a sample of 28,975 people estimates that 67.6% of the population has antibodies! This confirms how much the second wave of Covid-19 ravaged India in the spring.

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But while two out of three Indians have already been infected, a third have not yet been infected, or 440 million people – which are as many targets for the third wave. Since the beginning of July, cases of Covid-19 seem to be on the rise again in the regions where the first two waves started, Maharashtra and Kerala.



Column Donner CREDIT: LAURA ACQUAVIVAChristophe Donner


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