Excess deaths due to pandemic much higher than reported Covid toll: WHO
So far, more than 3.4 million deaths worldwide have officially been attributed to Covid-19 since the disease first surfaced in China in late 2019.
But according to a global health statistics report from the WHO, far more people have died who would otherwise not have died had it not been for the pandemic, either due to Covid or because they could not get treatment for other ailments.
At a regional level, excess mortality estimates for the Americas stood at up to 1.46 million, and as much as 1.21 million in the European region in 2020, representing 60 and 50 percent more than the reported Covid deaths there, the report found.
"This has resulted in many of the official Covid-19 statistics being an undercount," WHO data analyst William Msemburi told reporters.
Many people suffering from chronic diseases or acute illnesses other than Covid-19 have been unable to get treatment and access healthcare due to the measures imposed around the world aimed at reining in the pandemic.
The socioeconomic toll of lockdowns and other measures has also lead to significant increases in depression, and the WHO said there were indications of growing suicide rates in some parts of the world.
"Excess mortality gives us a better picture, because it captures both of these direct and indirect effects," he said.
It still remains unclear how many of the excess deaths counted last year could be directly attributable to Covid-19, he said, adding that the WHO was working to determine the best methods for identifying missed Covid deaths.
The WHO said its excess death estimates were based on data analysis where possible, but also statistical modelling, due to a "critical data gap" in many countries, especially in terms of death registration.
While most countries do well in registering births, only 40 percent of the world's nations register at least 90 percent of deaths that occur, Asma said.
Asma called for countries to invest in scaling up their data and information systems, insisting: "We can only be better prepared with better data."