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Global COVID deaths may be three times higher than what official figures suggest, study claims

New research suggests that global coronavirus deaths may be three times more than official estimates.

According to the study, 18.2 million people may have died between December 2020 and December 2021. Official statistics record 5.9 millions deaths between January 2020 & the end last year.

The peer-reviewed first study on excess deaths shows a higher number (the difference between the expected number based upon past trends and the actual number).

It analyzed data from 191 territories and countries between January 2020 – December 2021.


The death rate in the UK is roughly as high as official figures, with the study showing that it ranges from 163,000 to 174,000.

Researchers sourced data via government websites, including the World Mortality Database, Human Mortality Database, as well as the European Statistical Office.

It was used to calculate excess deaths. It was calculated at 120 deaths per 100,000 people worldwide.

More information on Covid-19

Researchers believe that 21 countries have excess deaths rates higher than 300 per 100,000.

Andean Latin America had the highest death rate at 512 per 100,000. Eastern Europe had 345 deaths for 100,000. Central Europe had 316 deaths each 100,000. Southern sub-Saharan Africa had 309 deaths per 100,000. Central Latin America had 274 deaths per 100,000.

Image Australia was home to some of the most dangerous lockdowns in the world – but the study shows that it had more deaths than expected

Some countries experienced fewer deaths than was expected based on historical trends.

Iceland had 48 less per 100,000 people than Australia, 38 less than Australia, and 16 fewer Singaporeans.

South Asia had the most excess deaths, at 5.3 million. India was second with 4.1 million.

According to The Lancet, excess deaths in Russia and the USA are estimated to total 1.1 million.

According to the authors, large differences in official deaths and excessive deaths could be caused by underdiagnosis due to a lack of testing or problems reporting death data.

They say that it is important to distinguish between deaths directly caused by COVID and those which occurred as an indirect consequence of the pandemic.

Initial research suggests that a large proportion of excess deaths is directly related to the disease. Others may be due to difficulties accessing healthcare or services, as well as other causes like suicide or drug abuse.

According to the authors, the balance will be clearer when more data is released by countries.

They acknowledge that there are limitations to their work. For example, they used a model to predict excessive death in countries that did not report monthly or weekly data.

Dr Haidong Wang of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said that understanding the true death toll caused by the pandemic was vital for public health decision-making.

“Studies in several countries including Sweden and the Netherlands suggest that COVID-19 is the cause of excess deaths. However, we don’t currently have sufficient evidence to support this conclusion.

“Further research is needed to determine how many deaths were directly caused by COVID-19 and how many were indirect results of the pandemic.”


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