Pakistan rejects WHO objections over official Covid-19 death toll

09:56 AM | 7 May, 2022
Pakistan rejects WHO objections over official Covid-19 death toll
Source: File Photo

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has rejected a claim made by the World Health Organization (WHO) about under-reported coronavirus death globally, saying its reporting system was “very close to actual numbers”.

The Ministry of Health issued a handout explaining how efficient and reliable mechanisms are being used to report deaths associated with Covid-19. “The death count in Pakistan is verifiable and accepted globally,” it asserted.

The response comes a day after WHO in its latest report said that nearly 15 million died of novel coronavirus between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021, three times higher than the reported globally during the pandemic.

Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally, it said.

The UN health body claimed that Pakistan was one of the countries where death toll is eight times higher than the reported causalities of 30,369.

It has also raised questions over official data of Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom (UK), Turkey, Ukraine, and other countries.

The Pakistani health ministry in a handout said that the reporting mechanism is set in place whereby every COVID-19 related death is reported on a district level, which is then collated at a provincial level by the respective healthcare systems, and finally, a cumulative number is shared on a national level which is reported via official channels.

“As a nation with a 97% majority of Muslims, most fatalities are buried and a record is maintained of every burial within a specific graveyard. The maintenance of burial data - including the date, time, and location - is a standard procedure that all graveyards follow. A mortality comparison was carried out to effectively check the monthly cumulative deaths recorded in the past three years. The mortality audit carried out by the NCOC critically looked at the graveyard data of big cities. There was a rise in deaths corresponding to each wave (which showed an increasing number of COVID-19 cases overall) that hit Pakistan but the cumulative number for the past two years did not witness an exponential increase,” read the official statement.

Pakistan’s system of disease and death reporting was meticulously designed with the help of provincial and local authorities and included thousands of reporting entities with built in mechanisms of cross verifications. All this information was fed into the main dashboard at NCOC.

“So while no system of mortality reporting is perfect, in a country like Pakistan with most fatalities being buried, our reporting system was very close to actual numbers,” it added.

Pakistan’s COVID-19 pandemic response strategy’s core focus is dependent on verifiable data points to implement interventions.

 Any stark under-reporting of figures, be it new cases of infection, hospital admissions, or death counts would have compromised Pakistan’s track record of a successful Covid-19 response which continues to be lauded across the globe.