COVID Death Toll Nearly Three Times Higher Than First Reported: WHO Data

By Jason Hall

May 5, 2022

Empty hospital bed on hospital ward
Photo: Getty Images

About 14.9 million people worldwide have died as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 during a nearly two-year span, which is nearly three times more than officially reported, the World Health Organization announced Thursday (March 5) via CNN.

The WHO's total combined the 5.4 million reported between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 and the excess mortality estimate of 9.5 million.

"Excess mortality is the difference between the number of deaths that have been recorded and those that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic," said Samira Asma, assistant director-general for the Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact Division of WHO, via CNN.

The 14.9 million total includes "deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 that were reported to WHO, deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 that were not counted or reported ... deaths indirectly associated with the pandemic due to the wider impact on health systems and society," according to Asma.

The WHO subtracted any deaths that were avoided due to changes in social behaviors, which included less fatal car crashes amid lockdowns or travel restrictions leading to a significant decrease in traffic.

The WHO reports an estimated range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million deaths during a 24-month period based on its methodology, which gives a clearer view of the extent of the pandemic, according to Asma.

"When we underestimate, we may underinvest. And when we undercount, we may miss targeting the interventions where they are needed most, and this also deepens inequalities," Asma said.

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