By: Alexandra Rimbu
India is now home to the world’s worst ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, having nearly more than 17.6 million reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic. And while this number may seem high, experts speculate the total number of cases (both reported and unreported) may be up to 30 times higher, reaching more than half a billion cases.
The great disparity between the total number of COVID-19 cases and the reported number of COVID-19 cases could be caused by several factors, including low testing levels and undercounting deaths.
Last year, in late April, the country was only testing fewer than half a million people per day, compared to the 2 million tests they do per day now. However, it appears this is still not enough.
“That’s still not sufficient because the national average positivity rate is about 15% — in some cities like Delhi it’s up to 30% or higher. That means there are lots of people out there who are infected and not being detected just because of the capacity of testing … we will know only later how many was really the number of people infected,” says Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking on the low testing levels.
The country also suffers an underfunded public health infrastructure. In normal times, according to CNN, only 86% of deaths nationwide are registered in government systems. During this pandemic, this number has decreased greatly. As hospitals have run out of space, more and more people die at home or in other places, where there are no doctors present to assign a cause of death, and these deaths then go unreported.
As of April 27th, India reported nearly 198,000 COVID-19 deaths. However, Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, estimates COVID-19 fatalities could be underreported by a factor of between two and five, meaning the real death toll could be close to 990,000.
While India still continues to struggle, it is receiving aid from overseas and taking steps itself towards lowering COVID-19 cases.
If you would personally like to help with the COVID situation in India, here are some links to sites where you can make a donation:
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