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The Hindu Editorial

31-October-2023

1. The COVID-19 death toll in India, getting it right

Topic: GS3 – Health sector

Measuring Pandemic Impact:

  • Excess mortality is a key metric used to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It is calculated by comparing observed mortality during the pandemic with expected mortality based on pre-pandemic trends.

Challenges in India:

  • India faces challenges in directly estimating excess deaths due to COVID-19 due to incomplete death registration (about 70% registration).
  • Death registration data in India varies widely across States and districts.
  • The data does not provide weekly or monthly mortality data necessary for excess death calculations.

Data Compilation and Modeling:

  • Independent investigators collected mortality records from government Civil Registration System (CRS) in 14 States and nine cities from January 2018 to May 2021.
  • These records were used to develop modelled excess mortality estimates for India.

Variability in Estimates:

  • COVID-19-related death estimates for India vary widely among different studies.
  • The highest estimate was 4.7 million excess deaths in India during 2020-2021 using local data as inputs.
  • There are concerns that some of the estimates may have overestimated COVID-related excess deaths in India.
  • Various studies faced limitations and biases in data and assumptions.

Call for a Task Force:

  • The author recommends establishing a task force of national experts to address this issue.
  • The task force should have access to microdata from CRS, SRS, and other relevant sources.
  • This task force would conduct a comprehensive analysis using standard statistical methods to provide accurate excess mortality measures at various levels.
  • Accurate district-level mortality measures are essential for addressing various health challenges.
  • These measures are vital for informed health actions, especially at the district level.

Strengthening Data Quality:

  • There is an urgent need to improve the attribution of causes of death, including medical certification and retrospective interview methods.
  • These initiatives will enhance data quality and the utility of CRS for mortality measurement in India.

2. Towards stabilisation of U.S.-China ties

Topic: GS2 – International relations.

Quiet U.S.-China Dialogue:

  • S. and China have moved from a period of minimal communication to a potential presidential summit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
  • This shift signifies a possible tactical stabilization of relations between two major global powers.

Immediate Impact on West Asia:

  • Improved U.S.-China dialogue can promote restraint in West Asia.
  • China’s influence on Iran, which supports Hezbollah in Lebanon, can play a pivotal role in regional stability.

U.S. Position:

  • The U.S. holds a position of strength economically and diplomatically.
  • It has strengthened alliances, especially in the Indo-Pacific, and maintained a tough stance on China.
  • The U.S. has maintained tariffs and export restrictions to limit China’s high-tech industry growth.
  • The National Security Strategy identifies China as a major competitor with the intent to reshape the international order.

China’s Perspective:

  • China believes the U.S. is in decline and seeks a cooperative co-existence approach.
  • It aims for acceptance of its political system and regional dominance in the western Pacific.

Global Relevance:

  • S.-China relations impact global issues like climate change and regional crises such as West Asia.
  • Enhanced cooperation is essential to effectively address these global challenges.

Summit Hope:

  • The Biden-Xi summit is expected to improve bilateral relations, despite the competitive nature of the relationship.
  • A pragmatic approach is needed to ensure the U.S. and China can work together effectively while acknowledging their competitive dynamics.

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