by Maria Cheng , The Associated Press
The World Health Organization estimates that about 15 million people died in the past two years either from the coronavirus or its impact on overwhelming health systems, more than double the official death toll of 6 million. Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe and America.
In a report on Thursday, UN agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the figure as “thinking”, saying it prompted countries to invest more in their capabilities to mitigate future health emergencies. should do.
Scientists tasked with calculating the actual number of COVID-19 deaths between January 2020 and the end of last year estimated that there were between 13.3 million and 16.6 million deaths that were either directly caused by the coronavirus or any other cause. Kind was responsible for the effects of the pandemic. Health systems, such as people living with cancer, were unable to get treatment when hospitals were overcrowded with COVID patients.
The figures are based on country-reported data and statistical modeling but only half of the countries provided the information. The WHO said it was not yet able to break down the figures to differentiate between direct deaths from COVID-19 and other deaths due to the pandemic and said a future investigation into death certificates project will examine it.
Dr Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at Yale, said: “It may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but understanding these WHO numbers is so important to how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to them.” should keep.” School of Public Health that was not associated with the WHO research.
For example, Ko said, South Korea’s decision to invest heavily in public health after experiencing a severe outbreak of MERS allowed it to avoid COVID-19, which has a per capita death rate of around 20th that of the US. Was.
Exact numbers on COVID-19 deaths have been problematic throughout the pandemic, as these figures represent only a fraction of the devastation caused by the virus, largely due to limited testing. More than 6 million coronavirus deaths have been reported so far, according to government figures reported to the WHO and a separate count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Scientists from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated that there were more than 18 million COVID deaths from January 2020 to December 2021 in a recent study published in the journal Lancet, and a team led by Canadian researchers estimated that there were more. Over 3 million uncounted coronavirus deaths in India alone. The new analysis by WHO estimates that the missed deaths in India were between 33 lakh and 65 lakh.
In a statement after the release of the WHO data, India disputed the methodology used by the UN health agency. India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare called the WHO’s methods of analysis and data collection “questionable” and complained that the new death estimates were released “without adequately addressing India’s concerns”.
Sameera Asma, a senior WHO director, acknowledged that “the numbers are sometimes controversial” and that all estimates are only estimates of the virus’s devastating effects.
“It has become very clear during the entire course of the pandemic, there are data that are missing,” she told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday. “Basically, we were all caught unprepared.”
Ko said the WHO’s improved data could also explain some lingering mysteries about the pandemic, such as why Africa appears to be the least affected by the virus, despite low vaccination rates.
“Was the death rate so low because we couldn’t count the deaths or was there some other factor to explain it?” He asked, citing high death rates in the US and Europe.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, a public health expert at the University of Exeter, UK, said the world could never get close to the true toll of COVID-19, especially in poor countries.
“When you have a large-scale outbreak where people are dying on the streets because of lack of oxygen, bodies were abandoned or people had to be cremated quickly because of cultural beliefs, we never know in the end. That’s how many people died,” he explained.
Although Panchania said the estimated COVID-19 death toll was still low compared to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – when experts estimated 100 million people died – he called the fact that modern medicine, including vaccines, had progressed. Despite so many people killed, it’s shameful.
He also warned that the cost of COVID-19 could be far more damaging in the long run, given the increasing burden of caring for people with COVID in the long run.
“With the Spanish flu, there was the flu and then there were some (lung) diseases that people suffered, but that was the point,” he said. “There was no permanent immunological condition that we are seeing with COVID right now.”
“We don’t know to what extent people living with COVID in the long run will have a shorter life span and if they have recurrent infections that will cause them even more problems,” Pankhania said.
Krutika Pathi and Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.