By Travis Decaminada
- An analysis of excess deaths has led some experts to conclude that actual Covid-19 fatalities are far higher than official reports indicate – in some cases potentially 10x higher.
- Moreover, a large number of countries do not collect data on causes of death in any capacity, further complicating the investigation.
- Collecting accurate Covid-19 data is vitally important for both understanding the impacts of the current pandemic, as well as preventing a future one.
Data collection has been an incredibly important part of stemming the Covid-19 pandemic. At the outset of the crisis public health agencies, healthcare providers, and individuals all made great efforts to report their infections to officials – in addition to taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease such as self-quarantining, social distancing, etc. However, as the pandemic wanes, it appears as though data collection efforts have somewhat stalled, due in part to a decrease in self-reported Covid-19 infections related to at-home testing; though, even entire countries may fail to accurately report Covid-19 data as well, for a variety of reasons.
The tendency to not report infections is not a new phenomenon, as Verisk’s Emerging Issues team wrote about accuracy problems with Covid-19 infection counts in early 2022. Now, per a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the problem appears to be getting worse, and the total number of Covid-19 fatalities may actually be far higher than official reports indicate, especially in certain parts of the world.1 Per the WHO:
The global excess mortality associated with COVID-19 was 14.91 million in the 24 months between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021, representing 9.49 million more deaths than those globally reported as directly attributable to COVID-19.2
For example, India officially reported 481,000 Covid-19 fatalities in 2020-2022. Though, after an analysis of excess deaths within the country, experts concluded that actual number of Covid-19 related fatalities during the same time period was approximately 4.5 million.3 Further, the WHO also found that some global regions were more likely to share accurate data with the agency than others, with socioeconomically challenged nations exhibiting the most unreliable reporting.4
India is likely not the only country to underreport Covid-19 mortality rates, especially considering that 70 countries simply do not collect data on causes of death.5 As more analysis of excess deaths occurring over the past several years is conducted, further insights into the actual extent of the Covid-19 pandemic may be revealed.
Information about at-home testing form the Centers for Diseases control and Prevention (CDC).
A Covid-19 dashboard, including case counts, hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
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