More than 63 million people in India may have got Covid-19, health officials said on Tuesday – about ten times higher than the officially reported numbers.
A national survey of more than 29,000 people in 700 villages and communities found that about 1 in 15 people over 10 years old had antibodies to the coronavirus, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research. The survey was conducted from mid-August to mid-September.
Antibody tests, also known as serology tests, look for proteins called antibodies in the immune system that will show whether someone has been exposed to the virus.
Of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens, more than 966 million are 10 years or older, according to the latest government census in 2011. If one in 15 people in this group is infected with Covid-19, that makes a total of 63.78 million people.
India reported more than 6.1 million cases and 96,000 deaths on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
The survey shows that for every officially reported infection, 26 to 32 infected people actually slip through the cracks, said Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director of the Medical Council, at a news conference on Tuesday.
This is in line with what many experts have been warning for months – that the coronavirus crisis in India could be much worse than official figures suggest.
There are numerous reasons for this: People just don’t get tested enough. There are sometimes errors in reporting and registering cases. Changing government strategies can mess up the numbers and paint a misleading picture of the situation.
The government began pulling restrictions in May after a month-long lockdown, with ministers turning their attention to reopening the economy and public services. However, experts, including Bhargava, warn that it is too early to relax.
“With a large portion of the population still vulnerable, fatigue must be avoided,” Bhargava said, adding that the risk of infection is highest in urban slums, where millions live in overcrowded conditions, often with limited sanitation or running water .
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