The real number of deaths from the pandemic worldwide is almost 15 million (and which countries in Latin America have the highest excess mortality)

The covid-19 It has caused the death of almost 15 million people worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday, which said that the number of deaths attributed directly or indirectly to the pandemic were underestimated.

The organization’s experts estimate that 14.9 million deaths may be associated with the pandemic, a total that includes 6.2 million deaths from covid officially reported to WHO by its 194 member countries.

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The rest corresponds to deaths caused by covid, but that were not reported as such, as well as those caused by other diseases that could not be treated due to the overload suffered by health systems in the acute stage of the pandemic.

The mean used by the WHO is called excess deaths: How many more people died than would normally be expected based on mortality in the same area and in the same amount of time before the pandemic hit.

This result also took into account deaths that from a certain point of view were “avoided” because the confinements reduced the risk of traffic and occupational accidents, the experts explained in a press conference.

“We focused on excess deaths because we know that in many countries the data from the tests was insufficient. We also know that not all countries have a certification system. [de fallecimientos] that meets standard practice,” said WHO statistician William Msemburi.

Mexico data

The WHO believes that many countries underestimated the number of deaths from covid.

According to data released on Thursday, in 2020 and 2021 there was in Mexico an excess mortality linked to covid of 626,000 peoplewhich includes people who died directly from the disease, from other medical problems, and from interruptions in health care resulting from the pandemic.

The figure almost doubles the 324,000 deaths from covid recognized by the Mexican health network since the start of the pandemic, according to the report on global excess mortality presented by WHO experts.

The other countries in the region that stand out for the total number of excess deaths are Peru and Brazil.

“A tragedy”

Speaking about the scale of the figures, Dr. Samira Asma, from the WHO data department, said “it’s a tragedy.”

“It’s a staggering number and it’s important for us to honor the lives that are lost, and we need to hold lawmakers accountable,” he said.

“If we don’t count the dead, we will miss the opportunity to be better prepared for the next time.”

The country in which the data released this Thursday is most shocking is India, where according to the WHO there were 4.7 million deaths from covid, ten times more than the official figures and nearly a third of covid deaths worldwide.

The Indian government has disputed the estimate, expressing “concerns” about the methodology, but other studies have come to similar conclusions about the scale of deaths in the country.

Along with India, the countries with the largest total excess deaths are Russia, Indonesia, USA, and the already mentioned Brazil, Mexico and Peru.

The figures from Russia are three and a half times the deaths reported by the country.

The report also looks at the rates of excess deaths in relation to the population size of each country. The UK’s excess mortality rate, like the US, Spain and Germany, was above the world average during 2020 and 2021.

Countries with low rates of excess mortality include Chinawhich continues to apply a “zero covid” policy that involves massive tests and quarantines; Australiawhich imposed strict travel restrictions to keep the virus out of the country; Japan and Norway.

The academics who helped compile the report admit that their estimates are more speculative for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, because there is little data on deaths in the region. There were no reliable statistics for 41 of the 54 countries in Africa.

better systems

Statistics professor Jon Wakefield, from the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, helped the WHO, telling the BBC that “we urgently need better data collection systems”.

“It is a shame that people can be born and die, and we have no record of their passing.

“So really we need to invest in the registration systems of the countries so that we can get accurate and timely data.”

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