“Official statistics on Covid-19 deaths only give a partial picture of the true death toll” linked to the pandemic in the world, observe scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle (USA). Covid-19 is potentially one of the leading causes of death in 2020 and 2021, they say.

With 5.3 million excess deaths, South Asia had the highest number of estimated excess deaths from Covid-19, followed by North Africa and the Middle East (1.7 million) and Eastern Europe (1.4 million). At the country level, the highest number of estimated excess deaths occurred in India (4.1 million), the USA (1.1 million), Russia (1.1 million), Mexico (7,98,000), Brazil (7,92,000), Indonesia (7,36,000), and Pakistan (6,64,000). These seven countries may have accounted for more than half of global excess deaths caused by the pandemic over the 24-month period, the authors of the study stated.

The analysis indicates that global excess deaths due to the pandemic may have totalled 18.2 million – more than three times higher than the official reported figure – by December 31, 2021. The excess death rate is estimated to be 120 deaths per 1,00,000 population globally, and 21 countries were estimated to have rates of more than 300 excess deaths per 1,00,000 population.

In addition to a mortality database, the authors of the study have notably built several models to predict the expected mortality rate in the absence of Covid-19, among other things to compensate for the lack of complete and solid data in several countries.

“Of the 12.3 million additional deaths, compared to the recorded Covid-19 deaths, a substantial part will probably be due to infection with SARS-CoV-2,” they consider.

The difference between the excess mortality and the Covid-19 deaths recorded could be explained by an under-diagnosis of infections by the coronavirus and/or by deaths from other diseases higher than anticipated under the effect of changes in behaviour or less access to care because of the pandemic, according to the researchers.

Asked in the CQFD programme, Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist and director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), specifies that the article assesses the “excess mortality of the pandemic”, i.e., not only the deaths due directly to the virus. It is a kind of “global sum which is thus calculated”.