Global COVID-19 death toll more than double the estimates: study

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says pandemic has caused nearly 6.9 millions deaths much higher than the 3.25 million reported.

Relatives in personal protective equipment (PPE) suits stand near the body of a person who died due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a cremation ground in New Delhi in India on Thursday [Prakash Singh/AFP]

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly 6.9 million deaths across the world, more than double the number officially recorded, a new analysis from the University of Washington, DC’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimated.

Deaths go unreported as most countries only record those that occur in hospitals or of patients with a confirmed infection, the report which came out on Thursday, revealed.

Current reported estimates showed more than 155 million infections worldwide with at least 3.25 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The IHME is an independent health research organisation that provides a comparable measurement of the world’s health problems and has been cited in the past by the White House and its reports are watched closely by public health officials.

The reported COVID-19 mortality is strongly related to the levels of testing in a country, the IHME said.

“If you don’t test very much, you’re most likely to miss COVID deaths,” Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said in a briefing call with journalists.

IHME estimated total COVID-19 deaths by comparing anticipated deaths from all causes based on pre-pandemic trends with the actual number of all deaths caused during the pandemic.

In the United States, the analysis estimated COVID-19 related deaths of more than 905,000. Official figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday estimated 575,491 deaths due to the novel coronavirus.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a Reuters news agency request for comment on the report.

The report only includes deaths caused directly by the virus, not deaths caused by the pandemic’s disruption to healthcare systems and communities.

“Many countries have devoted exceptional effort to measuring the pandemic’s toll but our analysis shows how difficult it is to accurately track a new and rapidly spreading infectious disease,” Murray said.

Meanwhile, India reported on Thursday more than 400,000 coronavirus infections within a 24-hour period, while the number of dead from the virus rose to a record 3,980.

The South Asian nation’s tally has surged past 21 million cases, boosted by a record 412,262 new infections. The number of people who have died due to COVID-19 now totals 230,168, health ministry data showed.

Interviews from medical doctors and village leaders who are involved in the counting the pandemic deaths, however, revealed that the real death toll could be many times higher than the official count.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters