Nearly 15 million deaths linked to covid-19, estimates WHO

Placeholder while loading article actions

The pandemic has led nearly 15 million additional deaths worldwide, according to a new estimate from the World Health Organization, including people who died of covid-19 and others who died of other causes linked to the crisis, such as healthcare shortages while that the virus was increasing and overwhelming hospitals.

The WHO defines excess deaths as “the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from previous years”.

“These sobering data underscore not only the impact of the pandemic, but also the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems capable of sustaining essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director. chief executive, said in a statement.

Most excess deaths in the first two years of the pandemic were concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas, the WHO said. More than two-thirds occurred in just 10 countries, including the United States.

The United States is nearing one million deaths directly caused by the coronavirus, a tally that does not include those who may have died because they did not receive treatment when health systems were overwhelmed during outbreaks. pandemic.

“Among high-income countries, the United States has done the worst in terms of excess death rates,” said Steven H. Woolf, director emeritus and senior adviser of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. School of Medicine, which did not participate in the WHO report. “We have experienced disproportionately high excess mortality rates due to the way we have handled the pandemic.”

Examining the excess deaths allows public health experts and political leaders to better understand the true toll of the pandemic. It counts people who died because they did not receive treatment for acute emergencies, chronic illnesses, and behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse that were exacerbated by the stress of home. pandemic.

“The obvious conclusion is that there has been a massive loss of life due to the pandemic,” Woolf added.

According to WHO analysis, middle-income countries recorded 81% of excess deaths, with 53% in lower-middle-income countries. High-income countries reported 15% and low-income countries reported 4% of excess deaths.

“The fact that the excess is 2.75 times the reported covid deaths – that’s a startling number,” said Jon Wakefield, a professor of statistics at the University of Washington who was part of the technical advisory group that has led WHO modeling efforts.

Several factors have contributed to the gap between officially reported covid deaths and the WHO’s estimate of excess deaths, Wakefield said. In places where coronavirus testing was not widely available, people may have died from the virus without knowing they had contracted it, he said. And some countries aren’t tracking deaths closely: Eight-five countries haven’t provided any covid data death at WHO.

“So many deaths are going unrecorded around the world,” Wakefield added. “It’s very upsetting these days.”

India, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, rejected WHO’s estimate that the crisis had caused nearly 4.7 million additional deaths, making it the highest toll in the world and almost 10 times the number reported by the government. In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the data collection system used by the WHO was “Statistically unstable and scientifically questionable.”

The WHO estimate confirms what experts have long argued – that the Indian government has underestimated the toll of the pandemic. WHO the report was delayed due to India’s objection, The New York Times reported in April.

A devastating wave of the delta variant of the coronavirus last year overwhelmed India’s patchy health infrastructure as hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen shortages killed patients in the nation’s capital. Cremations took place in car parks and corpses were found floating in the Ganges.

This week the government released data from 2020 which shows an 11% increase in deaths that year compared to the previous two years.

“Instead of undermining the WHO numbers, they corroborated the results,” said Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. While other countries have accepted that there will be some difference between recorded deaths and excess deaths, India’s setback has been exceptional, he added.

Ariel Karlinsky, an Israeli economist and a member of the WHO advisory group that estimated excess deaths, said the organization asked India to share its data throughout the process. “They didn’t,” he said.

Comments are closed.