Infections in India are 10 times the official figure, the country’s leading pandemic agency says, citing a nationwide study.
More than 60 million people in India – 10 times the official figure – could have contracted the novel coronavirus, the country’s leading pandemic agency said Tuesday, citing a national study that measures antibodies.
Home to 1.3 billion people, India is the second most infected nation in the world, with over 6.1 million cases, just behind the United States, according to official data. Nearly 100,000 Indians have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
But the real figure could be much higher, according to the latest serological survey ̵
“The main conclusions of this serum survey are that one in 15 individuals over the age of 10 was exposed to SARS-CoV-2 by August,” said Director-General of the Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR) Balram Bhargava in a press conference of the ministry of health.
Bhargava said evidence of exposure to the virus was more prevalent among people tested in urban slums (15.6%) and non-slum urban areas (8.2%) than in rural areas, where 4.4% of respondents had antibodies.
Treat yourself with caution
Blood tests were collected from just over 29,000 people in 21 states or territories between mid-August and mid-September.
The new figures are a marked leap from the first results of the serum survey, which according to the ICMR showed that about 0.73 percent of adults in India – around six million people – were infected in May.
Other antibody studies conducted in the capital, New Delhi and the financial center of Mumbai have suggested more infections than official numbers say.
Scientists warn, however, that antibody tests should be treated with caution because they also pick up exposure to other coronaviruses, not just the one that causes COVID-19, the disease that has killed more than a million people worldwide from when it emerged late last year.
India, which has one of the most poorly funded health systems in the world, has gradually lifted a stringent lockdown imposed in late March, even as infections steadily rise, to revive its battered economy.