India may have 4.9 million excess pandemic deaths

A study by a Washington think-tank is providing the latest evidence that India's coronavirus death toll could be millions higher than the official government tally.

The NGO, called the Center for Global Development, says India has experienced 4.9 million excess deaths since the start of the pandemic through June this year.

That means 4.9 million more people have died than would normally occur during that time period from natural causes, accidents, and other regular non-COVID related issues.

For reference, India's official COVID tally is 414,000 dead, the third highest in the world behind Brazil at 542,000 and the United States with 608,000.

Not all of the excess deaths would be COVID, but some experts believe that counting excess deaths is the most accurate way to measure the pandemic's devastation.

Health experts say undercounting in India would be largely due to scarce resources in rural areas, which are home to two-thirds of the country's population of nearly 1.4 billion people, and also that many deaths at home aren't tested.

India's government has previously dismissed reports that the death toll could be much higher, and most cities in India have lifted their strict lockdowns.

There are concerns by authorities though, that mass gatherings such as religious festivals are still acting as superspreader events.

On Tuesday (July 20) a separate study by the Indian government stated that two thirds of the Indian population are believed to have coronavirus antibodies - meaning they've come into contact with the disease.

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