The Covid-19 pandemic killed 13.3 to 16.6 million people in 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated on Thursday – up to three times that number of deaths directly attributed to the disease.
The World Health Organization’s long-awaited estimate of the total number of deaths caused by the pandemic – including lives lost from its aftermath – finally gives a figure for the broader impact of the crisis.
“New estimates The World Health Organization shows that the total death toll directly or indirectly related to the Covid-19 pandemic between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 was approximately 14.9 million (range 13.3 million to 16.6 million),” the UN health agency said in a statement.
The figure calculates what is known as excess mortality due to the Covid-19 crisis, which has been turning much of the planet upside down for more than two years.< /p>
” This sobering data points not only to the impact of the pandemic, but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can maintain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Deaths due to impact
Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and what would have been expected had the pandemic not occurred, based on data from previous years.
Excess mortality includes deaths directly linked to Covid-19, due to the disease and indirectly due to the impact of the pandemic on health systems and society.
The WHO declared Covid on January 30, 2020 into an international health emergency after cases of the new coronavirus spread beyond China had spread.
Countries around the world reported 5.42 million deaths from Covid-19 to the WHO in 2020 and 2021 – a number that stands at 6.24 million today , including deaths in 2022.
The Geneva-based organization has long said the true number of deaths would be far higher than just the recorded deaths attributed to Covid infections .
Deaths indirectly linked to the pandemic are due to other diseases for which people have not had access to treatment because healthcare systems have been overwhelmed by the crisis.
The WHO said most of the excess deaths – 84 percent – were concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
In fact, 10 countries alone were responsible for 68 percent of all excess deaths.
High-income countries accounted for 15% of the excess holy deaths; upper-middle-income countries 28 percent; lower-middle-income states 53 percent; and low-income countries four percent.
The global death toll was higher among men than women – 57 percent male, 43 percent female – and higher among older adults.
The Understanding the crisis
“Measuring excess mortality is an essential component to understanding the impact of the pandemic,” said Samira Asma, WHO Deputy Director-General for Data, Analysis and Delivery.
She said changes in mortality trends give decision-makers the information they need to guide practices that can reduce mortality rates and prevent future crises.
“These new estimates use the best data available and have been prepared using by a robust methodology and a fully transparent approach.”
The WHO said the figure of 14.9 million was determined by world-leading experts who have developed a methodology to estimate estimates where data are lacking.
Many countries do not have the capacity to reliably monitor mortality and therefore do not generate the data needed to calculate excess mortality rates – but can do so using the publicly available methodology.
The WHO was scheduled to hold a press conference later Thursday to explain the new calculation.