The Covid-19 pandemic killed 13.3 to 16.6 million people in 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated Thursday — up to triple the number of deaths officially 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 to its knock-on effects — finally puts a number on the broader impact of the crisis.
“The full death toll associated directly or indirectly with 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.
India’s reported Covid-19 deaths for 2020-21 are 481,000, but the WHO’s estimated total figure is 3.3 million to 6.5 million.
– Deaths due to impact –
Excess mortality includes deaths directly due to Covid-19 disease, and indirectly due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society.
The WHO declared Covid an international public health emergency on January 30, 2020, after cases of the new coronavirus spread beyond China.
The Geneva-based organisation has long said the true number of deaths would be far higher than just the recorded fatalities put down to Covid infections.
That could include delays to surgical operations, or chemotherapy for cancer patients.
The WHO said that most of the excess deaths — 84 percent — were concentrated in south and southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.
High-income countries accounted for 15 percent of the excess deaths; upper-middle-income nations 28 percent; lower-middle-income states 53 percent; and low-income countries four percent.
And 82 percent of the excess deaths were estimated to be people aged over 60.
Asma said measuring excess mortality was vital to understanding the pandemic, with the numbers informing policymakers so they can take action to reduce death rates and prevent future crises.
The WHO believes that generally, six in 10 deaths worldwide are not formally recorded.