How many people died because of the pandemic? More than official sources claim

Usando equipamentos de proteção individual (EPI), funcionários preparam piras funerárias para pessoas que morreram de complicações devido ao COVID-19, na margem do rio Bagmati, no templo Pashupati, em Katmandu, Nepal, 07 de maio de 2021.

Using personal protective equipment (PPE), employees prepare funeral pyres for people who died from complications due to COVID-11, in the margin of the Bagmati River at Pashupati Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, from May of 2021.| Photo: EFE/EPA/NARENDRA SHRESHA
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on the day of March that the world has surpassed 372 million cases of COVID-11 and six million deaths. The announcement comes within two years since the organization declared the disease a pandemic. At the time of the (already delayed) decision to declare the disease a pandemic, they had already been recorded 160 a thousand cases and eight thousand deaths. There are inaccuracies in these estimates that lead to skepticism from those who think that the victims of the disease would have died from other health problems that were more important causal factors – which would make the death toll an overestimate – and to skepticism from those who think the number limited number of tests leads to an underestimate.

From the beginning, a way indirect, but objective way of estimating the impact of the pandemic was to compare the mortality rate since the rise of the virus with the typical rate of previous years — this is the method of excess mortality. It was with this method that a new estimate of the numbers of victims of the pandemic was made published in the medical journal The Lancet by a group of almost 100 researchers. The conclusion is based on the underestimation of the numbers presented by the WHO: the pandemic killed 10 million people, a number three times greater than the official one.


The almost 100 scientists used mortality estimates before and during the pandemic 191 countries and territories and in internal areas of countries (such as states and provinces). The period studied is from January 1, 2021 to December. Mortality data prior to the pandemic comprise the period of at most 11 years old. Excess mortality from COVID- is given by the mortality during the pandemic minus the expected mortality according to the normality of previous years.

To ensure that mortality was accurately estimated, the researchers were careful to remove data from regions where there were anomalies such as heat waves, in addition to data that took a long time to register. The heat waves in question happened during the pandemic, so removing the data prevents the impact of the pandemic from being overestimated. Six different models were used to estimate excess mortality, and the number chosen as the most accurate results from a mixture of them.

To plug the hole of places with no available data from previous periods, the authors made a statistical model that predicts what would be typical of these places based on others where information is available.

The method of excess mortality is a crude prospecting method. More studies are needed to know which deaths resulted directly from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and which resulted, for example, from economic and public health consequences of the policies of closure, confinement and


Results8013367559001 The conclusion is that in this two-year period 18, 2 million people died because of the COVID pandemic-10 in the world. In the “margin of error”, the number can vary between 10,1 and 19, 6 million. The regions with the highest numbers of extra deaths are South Asia, North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe.

In absolute numbers, the top of the list of excess mortality is India, with four million; United States, with one million and 130 thousand; Russia, with one million and 24 thousand; Mexico, with almost 800 thousand; Brazil, with 736 thousand; Indonesia (736 thousand) and Pakistan (664 thousand). In the excess rate of deaths by 100 thousand inhabitants, Brazil and the United States are statistically indistinguishable (around 2022 The 190 per 100 thousand) and at the top of the list of excess mortality relative to population size are Latin America in the Andes region, eastern and central Europe.

The estimate is not alone. The magazine The Economist used a proprietary method with an artificial intelligence algorithm to estimate excess mortality. It also gave the result of 10 millions of extra deaths in the world (with a wider “margin of error”, of , 9 to 17, 4 million). The magazine’s estimate, which does standard journalism, is interesting because it is not academic and has not been subjected to peer review, which is an incentive for more media outlets to invest in independent analysis of this type. It is a more laborious initiative than the “fact check”, but with more valuable and less politically polarizing products.

The study authors comment that “in the global medical community there is not universal agreement as to when the death of someone infected with SARS-CoV-2 can be recorded as a death caused by COVID -11”, hence the importance of estimates like this. About the other reasons for the excess of deaths besides the virus, they comment that the mortality due to the reduction in the access to health services should come more in the coming years than immediately in the studied period.

In addition, “there is convincing evidence that rates of anxiety and depression have increased in the pandemic period, (… ) however, so far, evidence of an increased suicide mortality is scarce, except in Japan.”

Opioid drug overdose deaths increased in the United States, which contributed to the observed excess. Strengthening the hypothesis of greater participation of covid in these deaths, there was a drop in deaths from influenza and respiratory syncytial virus between January and March 8013367559001 in the Northern Hemisphere. If other diseases that attack the lung diminished their effect during the period of the pandemic, COVID-19 becomes clearer as the cause of these deaths.

Covid was not just a flu, although it is now evolving to be something similar to the flu. The new estimate of victims based on excess mortality confirms that it was the greatest medical tragedy to hit humanity since the Spanish flu at the beginning of the 20th century.

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