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WHO estimates nearly 15m people died from Covid-19 in the first two years of the pandemic

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Grave officials are seen burying victims who died due to Covid-19 at a special cemetery in Rorotan, Jakarta, Indonesia on August 8, 2021.
Grave officials are seen burying victims who died due to Covid-19 at a special cemetery in Rorotan, Jakarta, Indonesia on August 8, 2021.
  • The WHO estimated that nearly 15 million people died directly and indirectly from Covid-19.
  • The new estimate is based on statistical modelling of data from January 2020 to December 2021.
  • The figure is around 2.7 times higher than what was reported by governments to the WHO.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Nearly 15 million people died from Covid-19 in the first two years of the pandemic, the World Health Organization said in a new estimate

The WHO estimated that between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, 14.9 million people died — around 2.7 times higher than the 5.4 million deaths that were reported by world governments to the WHO during the same time period.

The WHO said its estimate came from statistical modelling that calculates the "excess mortality" — the difference between the number of deaths that happened and the anticipated deaths if the pandemic didn't happen — for the two-year time frame. 

Excess mortality, the WHO said, includes deaths directly caused by Covid-19 and those indirectly caused by the virus' burden on global health systems and its strain on general society.  

"These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Thursday.

Among its findings, the WHO said 84% of the excess deaths occurred in the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia and that 20 countries that account for half the global population — including the US and UK — made up over 80% of the estimated excess mortality.

The WHO also said that 57% of people accounted for in the global death toll were men.

Pinning the exact number of deaths caused by Covid-19 has been a challenge for governments since officials discovered the virus.

Using excess mortality, researchers from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that during the first two years of the pandemic, there were over 18 million deaths due to covid-19, according to findings published in the science journal Lancet

Meanwhile, the latest government data reported to the WHO shows over 6.2 million people have died from Covid-19 as of May 2022.

"Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic," Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics, and Delivery at the WHO Samira Asma said in a statement.

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