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Covid deaths worldwide at least double official records


Many deaths from Covid-19 go unreported because countries only report deaths that occur in hospitals or in patients with a confirmed infection.

File picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

NEW DELHI – Multiple estimates now suggest a significant undercounting of Covid deaths globally.

As per estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), the actual number of deaths could be even two or three times higher.

“WHO estimates show that #COVID19 was responsible for at least 3 million excess deaths in 2020. That’s 1.2 million more deaths than officially reported. The actual number could even be 2 or 3 times high”, Samira Asma, assistant director-general , @WHO for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact said in a tweet.

A WHO report, “The true death toll of Covid -Estimating global excess mortality”, says that preliminary estimates suggest the total number of global deaths attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 is at least 3 million, representing 1.2 million more deaths than officially reported.

With the latest Covid-19 deaths reported to WHO now exceeding 3.3 million, based on the excess mortality estimates produced for 2020, we are likely facing a significant undercount of total deaths directly and indirectly attributed to Covid-19.

WHO said Covid-19 deaths are a key indicator to track the evolution of the pandemic. However, many countries still lack functioning civil registration and vital statistics systems with the capacity to provide accurate, complete and timely data on births, deaths and causes of death. A recent assessment found that the percentage of registered deaths ranged from 98% in the European region to only 10% in the African region.

Countries also use different processes to test and report Covid-19 deaths, making comparisons difficult. To overcome these challenges, many countries have turned to excess mortality as a more accurate measure of the true impact of the pandemic, WHO said.

Excess mortality is defined as the difference in the total number of deaths in a crisis compared to those expected under normal conditions. Covid-19 excess mortality accounts for both the total number of deaths directly attributed to the virus as well as the indirect impact, such as disruption to essential health services or travel disruptions.

For 2020, excess mortality attributable to Covid-19 is defined as the difference between the total observed deaths for the year and those expected in the absence of Covid-19. The measure cannot be determined for all countries due to data gaps within some countries.

WHO said at the regional level, Covid-19 excess mortality estimates range from 1.34 to 1.46 million in the region of the Americas to 1.11 to 1.21 million in the European region in 2020. This represents about 60% and 50% more than reported Covid-19 deaths respectively.

Other reports say that based on a comparison of coronavirus deaths in 204 countries relative to their population, Hungary had the most losses to Covid-19 up until May 21.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine is projecting about 9.2 million deaths globally by September 1.

“Cases globally are declining but mortality is stagnant. Still, the detection rate of Covid-19 infections is very low, about 7% globally.

’’Based on the seroprevalence surveys that we track at IHME, we estimate about 24% of the public have been infected, so it means that many people are still susceptible out there. Effective R is above 1 in 63 countries, indicating that cases will increase in the coming weeks in these locations.”

Globally, Covid-19 has caused approximately 6.9 million deaths, more than double what official numbers show, IHME said.

The updated analysis shows that the United States has had more Covid-19 deaths to date than any other country, a total of more than 905,000. By region, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia were the hardest hit in terms of total deaths.

Many deaths from Covid-19 go unreported because countries only report deaths that occur in hospitals or in patients with a confirmed infection. In many places, weak health reporting systems and low access to health care magnify this challenge.

IHME’s analysis found that the largest number of unreported deaths occurred in countries that have had the largest epidemics to date. However, some countries with relatively smaller epidemics saw a large increase in the death rate when accounting for unreported deaths.

This analysis shows that they may be at greater risk for a wider epidemic than previously thought.