Covid-19 deaths much higher than official figures, claims report

The report published in Nature takes into account a machine learning approach used by The Economist magazine in London. It found some issues with the collection of data and claimed the actual fatalities could be two and four times more than the official Covid-19 data.
The model adopted by the Economist estimated around five million Covid-19 deaths in India.
The model adopted by the Economist estimated around five million Covid-19 deaths in India.
Published on Jan 20, 2022 08:57 AM IST
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Written by Harshit Sabarwal | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2019, more than 55 million people have lost their lives due to the viral disease, according to official figures. But a new research published in Nature has claimed that the actual toll count could be many times higher.

There has been an ongoing debate about whether countries hide their actual Covid-19 death toll to protect their image on the global platform.

The report published in Nature takes into account a machine learning approach used by The Economist magazine in London. It found some issues with the collection of data and claimed the actual fatalities could be two and four times more than the official Covid-19 data.

The report in Nature cited examples of how countries around the world have been reporting the victims of Covid-19. It said that in the Netherlands, the government, during the early stages of the pandemic, only counted those patients who died in the hospital after getting infected.

On the other hand, Belgium included deaths caused by severe cold and as Covid-19 fatalities, without testing the patients, the report said.

The report said that the death toll remained high in rich countries and low in poor countries. But an analysis of the World Mortality Dataset (WMD) of 116 countries said that poorer countries recorded fewer deaths, it further said.

According to data modelling, the actual Covid-19 deaths in wealthy countries may be as high as a third of the current figures. In poor countries, meanwhile, the actual fatalities can be up to 20 times higher than the current figures.

The report said that the WHO may soon release its first assessment regarding the deaths. It has taken the opinion of several experts to conclude that in order to estimate the actual Covid-19 fatalities, the deaths that happened five years before the pandemic will have to be compared with the current period.

The report also stated that Covid-19 pandemic is the largest after the Spanish flu that spread during 1918-20.

Going as per the WMD model, Russia saw more than 300,000 patients succumbing to Covid-19 by the end of 2021. However, excess deaths are likely to have crossed one million in that period.

More than 100 countries, including China, India, and several in Africa, lack excess-death estimates in the WMD. This is due to either their governments not collecting the death figures or publishing them speedily, the Nature report said.

However, these countries also account for millions of deaths due to Covid-19.

India, which was severely hit during the second wave of Covid-19 last year, has reported more than 487,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. But, the aforementioned model adopted by the Economist estimated around five million deaths in the country.

Similarly in China, which is the epicentre of Covid-19, the Economist’s model has estimated over 750,000 deaths in total which is 150 times more than the official data at 4,600.

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