COVID: This is how many people have actually died from the virus

The global COVID death toll is likely three times higher than what official figures say, according to a new study.

COVID: This is how many people have actually died
© Future Publishing / Getty Images
COVID: This is how many people have actually died

A new study indicates that the Covid pandemic may have claimed over 18 million lives globally, more than three times the official death toll.

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Two years since the pandemic was declared

This is in stark contrast to the official Covid death toll which suggests that 5.9 million people died between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021.

The report entitled ‘Estimating excess mortality due to the COVID-19 pandemic’, published in the Lancet, comes two years to the day from when the World Health Organization first announced the pandemic.

The researchers from the University of Washington studied 191 countries and territories for what they call the true global death figure. According to their analysis, the higher figure is a more accurate estimate of the true global death figure at the end of 2021.

The authors said:

Our estimates of Covid-19 excess mortality suggest the mortality impact from the Covid-19 pandemic has been more devastating than the situation documented by official statistics.
Official statistics on reported Covid-19 deaths provide only a partial picture of the true burden of mortality.
COVID: This is how many people have actually died Future Publishing / Getty Images

Excess deaths

They based their calculation on what the authors say are the first peer-reviewed estimates of ‘excess deaths’, which they believe were caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic.

Some deaths were from the virus, while others were due to Covid worsening pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.

Excess deaths–the difference between the number of all deaths and the number expected based on past trends–are an important measure of the true death toll from the pandemic.

While numerous experts have made several attempts to estimate excess deaths from Covid, they have been limited by the availability of data.

Lead author Dr Haidong Wang, an associate professor of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said:

Understanding the true death toll from the pandemic is vital for effective public health decision-making.

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Deaths according to country

The five countries with the highest estimated excess death rates were:

  • Bolivia
  • Bulgaria
  • Eswatini
  • North Macedonia
  • Lesotho

The five with the lowest were:

  • Iceland
  • Australia
  • Singapore
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
COVID-19: This is how many people have died since pandemic began COVID-19: This is how many people have died since pandemic began