The World Health Organization (WHO) says as of December 31, 2020, COVID-19 had infected over 82 million people and killed more than 1.8 million worldwide.
However, preliminary estimates suggest the total number of global “excess deaths” directly and indirectly attributable to COVID-19 in 2020 amount to at least 3 million, 1.2 million higher than the official figures reported by countries to the organization.
“With the latest COVID-19 deaths reported to WHO now exceeding 3.3 million, based on the estimates produced for 2020, we are likely facing a significant undercount of total deaths directly and indirectly attributed to COVID-19.” WHO said.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General WHO said, “All countries must have the necessary capacity and resources to accurately collect and use health data even in the midst of an ongoing crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of data and science to build back more resilient health systems and equitably accelerate towards our shared global goals.” He added.
The term “excess deaths” describes deaths beyond what would have been expected under “normal” conditions.
It captures not only confirmed deaths but also COVID-19 deaths that were not correctly diagnosed and reported as well as deaths attributable to the overall crisis conditions.
For example, some countries only report COVID-19 deaths occurring in hospitals or the deaths of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, many countries cannot accurately measure or report cause of death due to inadequate or under-resourced health information systems.
The pandemic has likely increased deaths from other causes due to disruption to health service delivery and routine immunizations, fewer people seeking care, and shortages of funding for non-COVID-19 services.