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Featured Image Credit: HFCM Communicatie/Creative Commons. Konstantin 'KVentz' Ventslavovich/Creative Commons.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 15 million people around the world have been killed by Covid-19 or its impact on health systems.
This figure is significantly more than the originally reported 5.4 million deaths, with WHO believing there were ten times more deaths in India.
WHO says there were more than 4.7 million deaths in the South Asian country, attributing to almost a third of Covid-19 deaths across the globe.
WHO measured excess deaths, which estimates how many more people died than would normally be expected before the pandemic hit.
It takes into account deaths that may not be directly attributed to Covid-19 but because of its knock-on effects, such as access to hospitals and care.
The total number of deaths associated with #COVID19 worldwide from 2020-2021 may be closer to 14.9 million: New estimates by WHO & @UNDESA.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 5, 2022
That’s 9.5 million more deaths than reported https://t.co/qDvaA6t5KZ #HealthData pic.twitter.com/ZjABJzlgiZ
The excess death rate is reported at an extra 9.5 million, with WHO saying the majority of the excess deaths were a direct result of Covid-19 rather than indirect deaths.
In addition to the underreported deaths in India, countries such as Egypt had 11.6 times more excess deaths than reported, Pakistan had eight times more, and Indonesia had 7.1 times more.
Dr Samira Asma, from WHO’s data department, told BBC: “It's a tragedy.
"It's a staggering number and it's important for us to honour the lives that are lost, and we have to hold policymakers accountable.
"If we don't count the dead, we will miss the opportunity to be better prepared for the next time."
The report also looked at the excess deaths relative to the country’s population size, looking at deaths per 100,000 people.
Peru suffered the most deaths relative to its population size, while countries such as Russia, the United States, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom all suffered significant deaths per 100,000 people.
Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred & the number that would be expected in the absence of the #COVID19 pandemic https://t.co/KgFlnthP5e #HealthData pic.twitter.com/Lgd9dw8x3P— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 5, 2022
Australia had one of the lowest excess deaths per 100,000, alongside Japan and China, which had imposed strict travel restrictions and mass testing.
The study did admit that the report was more speculative for countries in sub-Saharan Africa due to the little data, with unreliable statistics for 41 out of 54 countries in Africa.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, from the University of Exeter, told the ABC that we may never get close to the exact toll of Covid-19 due to a lack of information coming out of developing countries.
Dr Pankhania said: “When you have a massive outbreak where people are dying in the streets because of a lack of oxygen, bodies were abandoned or people had to be cremated quickly because of cultural beliefs, we end up never knowing just how many people died.”