The Covid-19 pandemic was responsible for the death of 13 to 17 million people at the end of 2021, far more than the official death toll, according to a new estimate from the World Health Organization (WHO) published Thursday, May 5. These highly anticipated figures give a more realistic idea of the devastating effects (including indirect ones) of the worst pandemic in a century and which continues to claim thousands of lives every week.
“New estimates from the World Health Organization show that the total toll associated directly or indirectly with the Covid-19 pandemic between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 is approximately 14.9 million deaths (a range of 13.3 to 16.6 million)”, the organization said in a statement. These figures confirm the estimate given by a study published on March 10 in the journal The Lancet and giving a balance sheet of around 18 million deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic, figures from member countries compiled by the WHO come to a total of 5.4 million deaths over the same period, but the WHO has long warned that these figures underestimate the reality . “These sobering data underscore not only the impact of the pandemic, but also the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can support essential health services during crises. including stronger health information systems”said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Asia, Europe and America most affected
Excess mortality is calculated by taking the difference between the actual number of deaths and the number of deaths estimated in the absence of a pandemic, based on existing statistics. Excess mortality includes both deaths directly caused by the disease and those indirectly caused by the impact of the pandemic on health systems and society in general.
The indirect causes of death linked to Covid can be due in particular to overloaded health structures and forced, for example, to delay surgical procedures or chemotherapy sessions for cancer patients. The WHO said most of the excess deaths (84%) were concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas. Some 10 countries alone accounted for 68% of the total excess mortality.
High-income countries accounted for 15% of excess deaths compared to 28% for upper-middle-income countries and 53% for lower-middle-income countries. Low-income countries accounted for 4%. The global death toll was higher among men than women – 57% men, 43% women – and higher among older people.