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Many deaths are ‘missing’, perhaps 28,000 of them, from official Covid-19 toll across world

A study of mortality data across 11 countries shows the total number of deaths, irrespective of the cause, over the last month was much higher than usual.

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New Delhi: The official worldwide death toll of the coronavirus pandemic may be short by thousands, according to a report that says at least 28,000 more people have died over the last month.

The New York Times did a review of the mortality data in 11 countries, which showed far more people died in these countries in the last month than in previous years during the corresponding period.

These deaths included people who died for reasons other than Covid-19, but could not be treated as hospitals were overwhelmed due to the spike in coronavirus patients, the report said.

According to the data, more than twice the usual number of people died each day in Paris in the past month, far more than the peak of a bad flu season. In New York City, the number is now four times the normal count.

As of Tuesday evening, the worldwide Covid-19 toll stood at 1,71,810.

The report also found that Spain had 66 per cent more deaths than usual while France had 28 per cent and the UK 21 per cent. Along with the US, Italy and Germany, these nations account for the top six coronavirus-affected countries in the world.

Also read: We may be underestimating the coronavirus death toll

Data on deaths versus data on Covid-19 deaths

While the report acknowledged that mortality data in the middle of a pandemic may not be perfect, it noted that the total numbers on deaths across countries offer a more complete picture of the pandemic.

For instance, countries that responded relatively late to the pandemic show a more stark difference in their current reported deaths and earlier data.

In Turkey, nearly 2,100 more deaths than usual were recorded between 9 March and 12 April. This is about twice the number of Covid-19 deaths reported by the country during that period.

In March, the Indonesian government attributed 84 deaths to coronavirus in Jakarta. However, over 1,000 people died in the country, much more than what is usual, according to data from the city’s Department of Parks and Cemeteries.

Excess mortality for each country was estimated by comparing the total deaths from all causes this year with the historical average during the same period.

In a number of countries in Europe, recent data show 20 to 30 per cent more people have been dying than normal. This means tens of thousands of more deaths.

Also read: Tracking India’s coronavirus deaths — 24 of first 35 victims had no foreign travel history

No conspiracy, just a pandemic

The NYT report suggested that the under-reporting of deaths was not deliberate. Mortality data usually takes time to be released, but many countries are providing daily updates due to the urgency of the outbreak.

This data is limited since not all deaths get reported. Most Covid-19 deaths are only reported if they take place in hospitals.

“At this stage, it’s a partial snapshot,” Patrick Gerland, a demographer at the United Nations, was quoted as saying.

“It’s one view of the problem that reflects that most acute side of the situation, primarily through the hospital-based system,” he said.

The picture will become more clear in a couple of months as countries are able to process all the mortality data, Gerland added.

Also read: More than 300 Indians have died of the coronavirus, and nearly 200 of the lockdown


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  1. You guys at The Print forgot to blame the Modi Govt for this! Surely this missing data is Modi Govt’s fault.

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