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COVID study finds 18 million deaths, three times official tally

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Increase in COVID infections among older adults in England

SWITZERLAND, UK: The pandemic’s death toll may be three times higher than official COVID-19 records suggest, according to a study that found stark differences across countries and regions.

As many as 18.2 million people probably died from COVID in the first two years of the pandemic, researchers found in the first peer-reviewed global estimate of excess deaths. They pointed to a lack of testing and unreliable mortality data to explain the discrepancy with official estimates of roughly 5.9 million deaths.

“At the global level, this is quite the biggest mortality shock since the Spanish flu,” said Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, where the study was conducted. COVID drove a 17% jump in deaths worldwide, he said in an interview. The flu pandemic that began in 1918 killed at least 50 million people.

The findings, published in the Lancet medical journal, focused on excess deaths to avoid under-counting and assess the extent of the pandemic’s devastation. While deaths continued to accumulate, the scientists compared the mortality between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 to comparable data for the prior years.

Only 36 countries have released cause-of-death data for 2020 so far. The researchers used weekly or monthly data on deaths from all causes in the past two years and up to 11 prior years for 74 countries and 266 states and provinces through searches of Government websites, mortality databases and the European Statistical Office.

A statistical model was used to predict excess deaths for countries that didn’t report weekly or monthly data. Excess deaths were 9.5 times higher than reported in South Asia and 14.2 times higher in sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers found.

Because of its large population, India alone accounted for an estimated 22% — or 4.1 million – of the global deaths. The U.S. and Russia were the next highest with 1.1 million each, followed by Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia.

In the end, the scientists estimated there was an excess of 120 deaths for every 100,000 people around the world. The study found 21 countries had estimated mortality rates higher than 300 per 100,000, led by Bolivia and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Coronavirus infections appear to be rising in older adults in England, with cases remaining at a high level despite a broad decline since a peak in January, according to a government-commissioned study published Thursday.

The REACT COVID-19 monitoring programme, which looked at almost 95,000 home swab tests taken in February, showed that around 1 in 35 people in England was infected with the virus during the period and infections were rising among those aged 55 and older.


Saturday, March 12, 2022 – 01:00

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