COVID mortality in India: National survey data and health facility deaths

Abstract

India’s national COVID death totals remain undetermined. Using an independent nationally representative survey of 0.14 million (M) adults, we compared COVID mortality during the 2020 and 2021 viral waves to expected all-cause mortality. COVID constituted 29% (95% confidence interval, 28 to 31%) of deaths from June 2020 to July 2021, corresponding to 3.2 M (3.1 to 3.4) deaths, of which 2.7 M (2.6 to 2.9) occurred in April to July 2021 (when COVID doubled all-cause mortality). A subsurvey of 57,000 adults showed similar temporal increases in mortality, with COVID and non-COVID deaths peaking similarly. Two government data sources found that, when compared to prepandemic periods, all-cause mortality was 27% (23 to 32%) higher in 0.2 M health facilities and 26% (21 to 31%) higher in civil registration deaths in 10 states; both increases occurred mostly in 2021. The analyses find that India’s cumulative COVID deaths by September 2021 were six to seven times higher than reported officially.

Publication
In Science
Aditi Bhowmick
Aditi Bhowmick
India Director

My broad research interests lie in studying inequality in access to economic opportunity along the gender, caste, and class dimensions in South Asia.