Nearly three times as many people have died as a result of COVID-19 as official data indicates, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO)
There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.
The official count of deaths directly attributable to COVID-19 and reported to WHO in that period, from January 2020 to the end of December 2021, is slightly more than 5.4 million.
Nearly 50 percent of the deaths that until now had not been counted were in India, WHO said, where 4.7 million people were reported to have died as a result of the pandemic – a tally 10 times higher than the country’s own official figure and almost a third of the global total.
Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would have been expected in the absence of the pandemic, based on data from earlier years.
The WHO’s figures reflect people who died because of COVID-19 directly and indirectly due to the pandemic’s wider effect on health systems and society, such as those who could not access healthcare for other conditions when systems were overwhelmed during huge waves of infection.
Obtaining accurate numbers on COVID-19 deaths worldwide has been problematic throughout the pandemic largely because of limited testing and differences in how governments collate such data.
Even pre-pandemic, about six in 10 deaths around the world were not registered, WHO said.
“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.