Apr 28, 2021 - World

India's COVID death toll tops 200,000 amid under-reporting claims

A man performs the last rites of his relative who died of Covid-19 as other funeral pyres are seen burning during a mass cremation held at a crematorium on April 24, 2021 in New Delhi, India.

A man performs the last rites of a family member who died of COVID-19 as other funeral pyres burn during a mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi, India., Saturday. Photo: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

India's COVID-19 death toll surged past 200,000 on Wednesday, as the country set another daily global cases record.

Of note: Medical experts and members of India's opposition parties say the actual death toll and case numbers are much higher, a charge Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party denies.

By the numbers: India's health ministry reported a record 360,960 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to nearly 18 million since the pandemic began.

  • It recorded another 3,293 deaths, taking the official toll to 201,187.

Driving the news: A New York Times investigation published Tuesday found "mounting evidence" suggesting fatalities are being "overlooked or downplayed."

  • Local medical workers said officials were worried about creating a "panic," the NYT reports.
  • University of Michigan epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee, who's been following the pandemic in India closely, told the Times, "From all the modeling we've done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported."

What they're saying: Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi, told CNN Tuesday, "It's widely known that both the case numbers and the mortality figures are undercounts, they always have been.

"Last year we estimated that only one in about 30 infections were being caught by testing, so the reported cases are a serious underestimate of true infections. This time, the mortality figures are probably serious underestimates, and what we're seeing on the ground is many more deaths, than what has been officially reported."
— Laxminarayan

The big picture: Hospitals across the country are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients amid a widespread oxygen shortage and sluggish vaccine rollout.

  • Indian Medical Association Vice President Navjot Dahiya on Monday called Modi a "super-spreader" for holding "big political rallies" for the state elections earlier this month, per the Tribune India.
  • "The scarcity of medical oxygen has become the reason for the death of many patients in every part of the country against the fact that several projects for installing the oxygen are still pending," he said.

What to watch: Aid has begun arriving in India from abroad, Channel News Asia notes. The U.S. is among the countries sending vital supplies.

  • President Biden told reporters at the White House Tuesday, "I think we'll be in a position to be able to ... share vaccines as well as know-how with other countries who are in real need."

Go deeper: U.S. to send India supplies as country faces record COVID surge

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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