India Has Undercounted Covid-19 Deaths by Hundreds of Thousands, Families and Experts Say

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-has-undercounted-covid-19-deaths-by-hundreds-of-thousands-families-and-experts-say-11624795202

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India has officially recorded more than 390,000 coronavirus deaths, but families who have lost loved ones, health experts and statisticians say that vastly undercounts the true toll. Families like Mrs. Singh’s have been left struggling to get compensation that some states have set up for Covid-19 victims.

India’s undercount has also left a huge gap in the world’s understanding of the impact of the Delta variant, which health experts believe helped drive one of the world’s worst Covid-19 surges in April and May. India was the first to detect the highly infectious variant, which has hopscotched around the world. It is fueling a surge in the U.K., and is expected to become the dominant variant in the U.S.

The undercounting of infections and deaths is a problem world-wide, even in countries with widespread testing. The World Health Organization said last month that the global Covid-19 death toll could be two or three times the official number. The problem, however, is particularly acute in the developing world, where access to healthcare and coronavirus testing is often more limited.

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To qualify for its Covid-19 compensation payment of 400,000 rupees, equivalent to about $5,400, the state requires a report from a certified lab, which at the time were taking days to process.The family got a test strip from the lab indicating that Mrs. Singh was positive and rushed to a doctor.
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Health experts say many Covid-19 deaths have gone uncounted among India’s vast population of rural poor, who have little access to healthcare or Covid-19 testing.

Mr. Banaji, the mathematician, says the central government has tended to praise states with low death counts and castigate those with higher counts as incompetent. “This narrative of success and failure centered on fatality numbers is very dangerous,” he said.

Author(s): Shan Li, Suryatapa Bhattacharya, Vibhuti Agarwal

Publication Date: 17 June 2021

Publication Site: WSJ

Unlocking: India states start reopening amid dip in Covid cases

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-57380665

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Major Indian states that have been virus hotpots are easing restrictions as Covid case numbers continue to fall.

National capital Delhi and financial hub, Mumbai, are among the cities that are opening partially.

This comes in the wake of a crushing second wave that saw hospital beds, medicines and even oxygen run short as cases spiked and deaths rose.

But experts continue to advice precaution amid a lagging vaccine drive and the threat posed by new variants.

Publication Date: 7 June 2021

Publication Site: BBC

India’s Covid crisis hits Covax vaccine-sharing scheme

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-57135368

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Unicef is calling on the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, as well as the EU, to donate their surplus supplies urgently.

Some countries have ordered enough to vaccinate their population many times over, including the UK, US and Canada.

In February British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to donate most of the UK’s surplus supply to poorer countries but he has so far given no specific timescale. It is a similar story for the US. So far France is the only G7 country to donate doses in view of the crisis in India.

Author(s): Tulip Mazumdar

Publication Date: 16 May 2021

Publication Site: BBC News

Is China’s population shrinking?

Link: https://www.economist.com/china/2021/04/29/is-chinas-population-shrinking

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The Communist Party has long known that, partly as the result of its brutal birth-control policies, China’s population would soon peak and start to shrink. It has been startled, however, by how rapidly that moment has drawn near. Now, it looks as if it might have arrived.

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There are also indications that China’s total fertility rate (the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime) has dropped faster than previously thought. Chinese planners have assumed a rate of 1.8, but some Chinese scholars (and the World Bank) say it between 1.6 and 1.7. A working paper released in March by China’s central bank suggests the rate is no more than 1.5.

Publication Date: 1 May 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

India is struggling with a catastrophic second wave

Link: https://www.economist.com/asia/2021/04/24/india-is-struggling-with-a-catastrophic-second-wave

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More disturbing still, India’s soaring official covid-19 count represents the tip of an iceberg. Because of low testing rates outside big cities, say epidemiologists, the actual caseload could be anything from ten to 30 times higher. A national serological survey conducted in December found 21% of Indians were carrying covid-19 antibodies, compared with an official tally which suggested that only about 1% of India’s people had been infected by that time. More recently, local journalists who have cross-checked hospital and funeral records against government numbers have found similar, gaping discrepancies across the country. One report revealed that in the second week of April, when authorities in Vadodara, a city in the state of Gujarat, announced seven covid-19 deaths, the count in two hospitals alone was more than 300. This suggests that India could be facing not 2,000 deaths a day, as the current official count shows, but something much higher.

Publication Date: 24 April 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

India’s catastrophic second covid wave shows no sign of slowing

Link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/04/26/indias-catastrophic-second-covid-wave-shows-no-sign-of-slowing

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INDIA’S SECOND wave of covid-19 continues to set grim new records. On April 25th India detected more than 350,000 new cases—the most in a single day in any country at any stage in the pandemic. This number has reached new highs for five days in a row (see chart). So bad has India’s outbreak become that it now accounts for some 38% of global cases—up from just 9% a month ago. That is the highest share reached by an individual country since the early stages of the pandemic.

Publication Date: 26 April 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

India’s giant second wave is a disaster for it and the world

Link: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/04/24/indias-giant-second-wave-is-a-disaster-for-it-and-the-world

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April 14th was a big day in India. Hindus and Sikhs gathered to mark the new year. Many Muslims celebrated the first day of Ramadan at late-night feasts with friends and family. In Haridwar, a temple town that this year hosts the Kumbh Mela, an intermittent Hindu festival that is the world’s biggest religious gathering, between 1m and 3m people shoved and jostled to take a ritual dip in the Ganges. And across the country, the number of people testing positive for covid-19 for the first time surpassed 200,000 in a single day. It has continued to surge since, reaching 315,000 just one week later—the highest daily figure in any country at any point during the pandemic. Deaths, too, are beginning to soar, and suspicions abound that the grisly official toll is itself a massive underestimate. Makeshift pyres are being constructed on pavements outside crematoriums to deal with the influx of bodies.

Publication Date: 24 April 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

India’s Covid-19 crisis has gone from bad to catastrophic in just a fortnight

Link: https://qz.com/india/1998394/how-indias-covid-19-second-wave-worsened-in-just-a-fortnight/

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In just two weeks, India’s second wave of Covid-19 has become disastrous.

The country, which was reporting less than 15,000 cases a day just last month, has been seeing over 200,000 Covid-19 infections a day since April 15. Yesterday (April 19), India reported 273,810 new Covid-19 infections and 1,619 deaths—both highest single-day spikes. That takes the active Covid-19 caseload tally up to nearly 2 million.

Author(s): Manavi Kapur

Publication Date: 19 April 2021

Publication Site: Quartz

Stalin Sees Poll Motive In TN CM Raising Retirement Age; Mum On DMK-Congress Seat-sharing

Link: https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/politics/stalin-sees-poll-motive-in-tn-cm-raising-retirement-age-mum-on-dmk-congress-seat-sharing.html

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DMK president MK Stalin on Thursday hit out at Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami for raising the retirement age of government employees to 60 years, saying the announcement was made with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections in the state. Though increasing the retirement age of state government employees was welcome, it appears that the announcement was made with the elections in mind, Stalin alleged.

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“Raising the retirement age is welcome, albeit the announcement made for the election,” the DMK leader said in a Facebook post on Thursday. He said the Chief Minister should have fixed the age criteria of 60 years when he had increased the retirement age to 59 from 58 years in May last year.

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: RepublicWorld.com

Raising of retirement age flayed

Link: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/raising-of-retirement-age-flayed/article33934131.ece

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The upward revision of retirement age for State government employees will affect opportunities for younger generation in getting employment in government departments, said K. Balakrishnan, state secretary, CPI (M) on Thursday.

Addressing journalists in Thanjavur, he said the State government, which was struggling to settle the retirement benefits of the State Transport Corporation employees, had announced that the retirement age for government employees would be increased to 60 years. This was nothing but an attempt to evade its responsibility of shouldering the financial burden of settling the retirement benefits of those due to retire from government service during this year.

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: The Hindu

Retirement age raised with eye on poll: Stalin

Link: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/retirement-age-raised-with-eye-on-poll-stalin/article33936796.ece

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DMK president M.K. Stalin on Thursday said Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had increased the retirement age of the State government employees with an eye on the Assembly election.

In a statement in Chennai, he said although it was welcome, the decision could have been taken last year when the retirement age was raised to 59.

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: The Hindu

India is betting on glitchy software to inoculate 300 million people by August

Link: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/10/1017860/india-covid-vaccine-cowin-software/

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India, which has had the second-highest number of covid-19 cases in the world, has launched one of Asia’s most ambitious vaccination drives, aiming to inoculate 300 million people by August. To make it happen, the government is using a vaccine management system called Co-WIN. For now, the focus is on getting 30 million health-care and frontline workers vaccinated. 

These workers will receive one of two vaccines approved for emergency use: the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine—known locally as Covishield and being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India—and Bharat Biotech’s indigenous vaccine, called Covaxin. 

Co-WIN is the backbone of the vaccination drive, so to speak. It handles registrations, creates vaccination schedules, informs the recipients through text messages, sends people to the right vaccination center, and also creates a vaccination certificate after they’ve received two doses. Although it’s starting with health-care workers, it’s expected to be used for the general public, too, and people will be asked to self-register through the app. 

Author(s): Varsha Bansal

Publication Date: 10 February 2021

Publication Site: MIT Technology Review