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How many people died in covid-19? And why is it so difficult to count deaths from a pandemic?

New estimates by the World Health Organization suggest that pandemic deaths are much higher than official numbers because these numbers are unreliable in many places.


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May 6, 2022

Funeral director in Lombardy, Italy, March 16, 2020

PIERO CRUCIATTI / AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization (WHO) Release A new estimated global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic states that there were nearly 15 million pandemic-related deaths between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.

This figure is more than double the 6.2 million deaths reported by covid-19. data With Johns Hopkins University, Maryland WHOYour own numbers. Behind this big difference is the fact that recording deaths of all kinds is an inaccurate science in many parts of the world. Experts say this needs to be resolved.

WHO’s new estimates are based on the number of deaths that would have been expected if no pandemic had occurred. The researchers behind it combined national mortality data from each country with statistics from scientific studies conducted in the same country. They also used statistical models to explain deaths that could otherwise have been overlooked.

This counting method includes not only deaths directly caused by covid-19, but also deaths indirectly caused by pandemics, such as those who died prematurely due to overwhelming health systems.

The team found that some countries significantly underestimated the number of people who died in the pandemic. This is especially apparent in India, which accounts for about half of the additional deaths estimated by WHO.

According to WHO estimates, India boasts the world’s largest death toll from covid-19. The team reported that the country experienced an excessive death of 4.7 million during this period, compared to the officially reported death toll of covid-19. 520,000 to date.

But these numbers only reveal what epidemiologists have known for years. Prabert Jar At the University of Toronto, Canada: Many countries still do not have an effective way to record their deaths. About 60% of the fatalities are unregistered. According to WHO..

“In 2020, 10 million people died in India, of which 3 million were unregistered,” says Jha, a member of the team. Conduct a survey About the death of covid-19 in India. He says the difference is mainly because half of the dead occur at home and the bodies are quickly cremated to maintain the Hindu and Islamic traditions. “People, especially women, are less likely to be registered, which makes it even worse in rural areas. [when they die]”He says.

WHO and Jha’s findings suggest that India’s previous hopes of better surviving a pandemic for a younger population were flawed. “Now I find that I was looking at the data too early,” he says.

The lack of covid-19 data is also a problem in many African countries, Jha says, obscuring the true death toll on the continent. Of the 47 countries on the continent, only five of them provided empirical data to WHO.

It is very important to solve these problems globally, he says. Ariel CarlinskyWho keeps World Mortality Dataset, Many of the WHO numbers are based. “Knowing the true number of deaths in a pandemic is the first step in better understanding what happened and preventing future outbreaks,” he says.

Jha says it’s not impossible to tackle these issues. “We have to claim that we can’t dispose of the body without registration. This is Mumbai. [in India] That’s right now, “he says. “They currently have nearly 100% death registrations and have that system for years.”

“Rural areas are still a problem,” he says. “I think we need an innovative way of thinking, such as establishing a village registrar to record all deaths.”

“It’s amazing that we don’t know how many 19 Covid 19 deaths occurred in the 21st century,” says Jha.

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How many people died in covid-19? And why is it so difficult to count deaths from a pandemic?

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