COVID Has Killed 15 Million People Worldwide, WHO Says

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to the deaths of approximately 15 million people worldwide. However, there are challenges in accurately estimating the death toll due to the lack of reliable death registries in many countries. Out of the 194 surveyed countries, 85 do not have trustworthy death registries, including 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

To address this issue, a team led by statistician Jonathan Wakefield from the University of Washington developed a statistical model. They utilized data from countries with complete death registries and incorporated various factors such as temperature, percentage of positive COVID-19 tests, severity of social distancing measures, and rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease – which are conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19-related deaths. This model enabled them to predict the total number of COVID-19 deaths in countries without reliable death registries.

As for India, which falls into an intermediate group with varying data quality, Wakefield’s team analyzed information from 17 Indian states that have adequate death registries. They then applied the excess deaths approach used for countries with complete death registries and extrapolated the findings to cover the entire country. Importantly, Wakefield clarified that the predictions for India were solely based on Indian data.

It is worth noting that the WHO’s estimates for COVID-19 deaths in India align with other studies, including one published in the journal Science, which projected over 3.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India by July 2021.

India faced a devastating surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant between April and June 2021. The government, considering the situation under control, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, leading to complacency and a higher death toll than officially reported.

However, acknowledging higher death tolls than the official count is politically sensitive in India. The Indian government criticized a study by Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto, dismissing it as “speculative” and lacking peer-reviewed data, despite its publication in a reputable scientific journal.

The WHO’s estimates also reveal significant discrepancies in other countries. Egypt has the highest undercount of pandemic deaths, with excess mortality reaching 11.6 times the officially attributed COVID-19 toll. India closely follows, with 9.9 times more excess deaths than officially recorded, while Russia reports 3.5 times fewer deaths from COVID-19 than indicated by excess mortality data.

Ariel Karlinsky from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a member of the WHO technical advisory group, hopes that the agency’s endorsement of excess mortality calculations will encourage countries to provide more accurate data. However, some governments are withholding all-cause mortality data used to determine excess deaths. Belarus, suspected of undercounting COVID-19 deaths by a factor of 12, has ceased reporting its all-cause mortality data to the UN.

Currently, concerns are rising in China as it experiences a significant wave of the Omicron variant. However, the country reports suspiciously low death numbers, raising worries that the actual number of deaths may be higher than officially reported.

On a positive note, some countries, like Peru, have responded to excess mortality studies with increased accountability and transparency. After initial analyses suggested that Peru was underreporting COVID-19 deaths by 2.7 times, the nation reviewed its medical and death records, revised its death toll, and currently reports one of the highest official per-capita death rates from COVID-19.

The WHO’s new estimates of total excess pandemic deaths consider both direct deaths from COVID-19 and deaths resulting from overwhelmed healthcare systems.

Initially, economist Ariel Karlinsky analyzed excess deaths to evaluate whether lockdown measures were causing more deaths than the virus itself. However, the data contradicted his assumptions, revealing no excess deaths in countries with strict lockdowns but low levels of COVID-19. Furthermore, there is no evidence of a global epidemic of suicides during the pandemic, and in some countries, such as the US, suicide rates actually decreased. The only exceptions are a few countries, like Nicaragua, where individuals avoided visiting hospitals due to infection fears, potentially leading to increased deaths from other causes like heart disease.

Karlinsky emphasizes that excess mortality should be considered alongside COVID-19 mortality as a comparable measure.

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Written by Western Reader

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