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Your Covid-19 questions answered

What is the true global Covid-19 death toll?

Kyle Zeeman Digital Editor
The WHO says the death toll is likely higher than the amount officially announced.
The WHO says the death toll is likely higher than the amount officially announced.
Image: 123rf/dolgachov

While official figures put the global death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic at more than 6.2-million people, the World Health Organisation says it could be around 15-million.

The organisation said recently “the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the Covid-19 pandemic (described as “excess mortality”) between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was about 14.9-million (a range of 13.3-million to 16.6-million)”.

It said this figure includes deaths associated directly with the Covid-19 disease and those due to the pandemic’s affect on health systems and society.

“Deaths linked indirectly to Covid-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic.

“The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.”

The WHO said most (84%) of excess deaths are concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas and 68% are concentrated in just 10 countries globally. 

“These sobering data not only point to the affect 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 Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

SA has officially recorded more than 100,000 Covid-19 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic more than two years ago. This week the US became the first country in the world to report more than 1-million Covid-19 deaths.

Associate professor at the department of population and quantitative health sciences at Case Western University in Ohio, Dr Mark Cameron, told the BBC it would be years before the true impact of the Covid-19 pandemic would be understood.

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