According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we will never know how many people have died as a result of COVID-19 around the world.

A recent study published in Nature collects data provided by this organization. It draws attention to the huge discrepancies in estimates of excess mortality.

Calculating these figures accurately is very difficult, the study explains. One reason is that many countries do not collect or publish mortality data, so figures must be extrapolated from regional values or estimates from surveys that are conducted.

The study indicates that between 2020 and 2021 there were approximately 14.9 million deaths associated with COVID-19 worldwide. So the number of deaths from COVID-19 could be three times higher than we thought.

According to another article published in Nature, the authors estimate that there would have been 2.74 times more deaths than the 5.42 million reported so far for the period. So COVID-19 would be responsible of about 15 million excess deaths globally.

In 2019, leading cause of death was ischaemic heart disease, with 8.9 million deaths. Information is not currently available for the pandemic years, but we would expect COVID-19 to be among the main causes of mortality in 2020 and 2021.

This study found that excess mortality was 4.47 million in 2020 and 10.36 million in 2021. It should be noted that excess mortality includes deaths caused by diseases that the health care systems have not been able to adequately attend to during the pandemic due to lack of resources.

As the Bioethics Observatory already highlighted in a report, “the lack of transparency in information related to the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a serious attack on the dignity of people. Since they have the right to be truthfully informed about such an important issue for their health”.


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