A new study by World Health Organisation found 14.83 million excess deaths over the period of 2020–2021. While in, 2020, the excess stood at 4.47 million and in 2021, the excess touched 10.36 million. The Study finds there were an estimated 4.74 million excess deaths in India in the period from January 2020 to December 2021.
India, with the highest mortality, was followed by 1.07 million excess deaths in the Russian Federation, 1.03 million excess deaths in Indonesia, and 9.3 Lakh excess deaths in the United States. The data suggests the actual death count could be three times what was reported for the period.
WHO defines excess mortality as, “the difference in the total number of deaths in a crisis compared to those expected under normal conditions”. For India, researcher William Msemburi and his team based this estimate on subnational data — They had mortality data for 17 states and union territories.
Many deaths caused by COVID-19 went undetected in official reports from 2020 and 2021 or remained underreported. Not just by lack of testing, but also due to misclassification of such deaths, and political costs of high Covid-19 deaths. It made it difficult to estimate the actual number of death.
Therefore, these estimates by WHO must be seen with utmost care. This is because only 37% of countries had complete data – which is essential to count excess deaths for the period. And there were 43% – of countries that had no data. Researchers used spline models as the basis for the modeling of the expected numbers – but since such models can produce inappropriate extrapolations, they say, they will revisit these studies. The researcher had to extrapolate from countries – where either data was not available or had limited region-specific data.
Since the timing of the spread and severity of Covid-19 varied from country to country. The study fails to capture that.