The number of coronavirus-related deaths in India surpassed 100,000 on Saturday, according to official figures, making India the third country in terms of deaths after the United States and Brazil.
A total of 100,842 deaths have been recorded, figures from India’s Ministry of Health show. The pandemic continues to rage in India, the second most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion people.
Since the arrival of the pandemic, 6.47 million cases of contamination have been recorded, and India is expected to overtake the United States in the coming weeks and become the country with the highest number of contagions.
However, the fact that India’s population is four times the population of the United States, while the United States has twice as many deaths as India, raises doubts about the accuracy of the Indian figures.
“We don’t know how reliable the death rates are in India,” virologist T. Jacob John told AFP. “India does not have a public health surveillance system that would document all cases of illness and death in real time,” he said.
Although the Indian authorities perform around a million tests per day, as a percentage of the population India’s testing rate is much lower than that of many other countries.
The United States, for example, tests proportionately five times as many people as India, according to global statistics site Worldometer.
Economy in free fall
India’s leading epidemic control agency on Tuesday released a survey suggesting more than 60 million people – 10 times the official figure – could have contracted the virus.
As the number of cases continues to rise, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to open up Asia’s third largest economy.
The strict lockdown imposed in March not only failed to stop the spread of the virus, but also pushed millions of people into poverty, with the loss of their jobs.
In the last quarter, India’s economy – which even before the pandemic was struggling – shrank 24%, one of the steepest declines among any major economy.
International commercial flights remain suspended, apart from certain limited services allowing foreigners to return to their country of origin.
Trains, subways, domestic flights, markets and restaurants have reopened, with some restrictions.
On Wednesday, the government said all schools could reopen, along with cinemas and swimming pools, under certain conditions.