Global COVID-19 deaths are more than twice as high as official estimates, according to a new University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation analysis that raises the death toll to more than 6.9 million.
Why the vast undercount? Limited testing capacity in many countries is a key reason, but it doesn’t explain why only a fraction of COVID-19 deaths are being reported in some countries.
- IHME estimates Russia had more than 593,000 deaths as of May 3, while only 109,334 had been officially reported.
- Likewise, deaths in Mexico were calculated to be nearly 494,000 and not 174,000.
IHME’s analysis shows that that wealthy countries, too, have severe undercounts at least partly because of COVID-19 deaths that went unattributed in the pandemic’s early days:
- The US has had 905,289 COVID-19 deaths as of May 3, far above the official number of 574,073.
- Germany’s death toll is 120,079—45% higher than the official number.
The Quote: “…Covid is going to rival Spanish flu at the global level in terms of the count, likely, before we see the end of this epidemic,” IHME director Christopher Murray told STAT reporter Helen Branswell and others. 675,000 Americans were believed to have died in the 1918 pandemic.
Case in Point: India
When a local newspaper in Rajkot published 240 obituaries on a late April day, the official death count for the city and its surrounding district was 12, The Washington Post reports.
Post reporters comparing crematorium statistics in 3 Indian cities to official counts found only a fraction of deaths were being reported.