According to experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), at the moment in the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, 6-8 million people could already die. At the same time, 1.8 million are officially considered to have died from the virus in 2020, and preliminary estimates of total mortality from COVID-19 are 3 million.The new figure, according to experts, includes both those who died directly from the virus and those , in whom it caused an exacerbation of an already existing chronic disease. However, even such a “broad” estimate of the death toll may still be adjusted upward in the future.

To date, as a result of infection with coronavirus in the world, about 6-8 million people could die. Such an assessment was made yesterday by the Assistant Director-General of WHO, Samira Asma. At the same time, at the end of 2020, WHO officially registered 1.8 million deaths from the virus. According to these data, most of the deaths are in the United States (389.6 thousand people), in Brazil (207.1 thousand), in India (151.9 thousand), in Mexico (137.9 thousand), in Great Britain (87.4 thousand).

However, the official indicator was previously recognized by the WHO itself as very conditional, because the appearance of a new disease requires new criteria for establishing death from it. Released interim WHO guidelines suggest that everyone for whom there is no other obvious cause of death should be considered dead from coronavirus. Such a definition, as the Russian demographer Yevgeny Andreev previously told Kommersant, is rather vague, since in some cases a patient may have both a coronavirus and the terminal stage of another disease. At the same time, as previously indicated by the WHO, those who died from an exacerbation of the underlying disease provoked by infection may also be among those who died from coronavirus. Also, the number of deaths directly from the coronavirus may be less than the real one due to the low accuracy of tests that determine the presence of the virus in the body. Many countries, including Russia, faced this problem during the pandemic.

Because of this, as well as due to the presence of intercountry discrepancies in the registration of deaths, even after the release of interim recommendations, WHO suggested that when analyzing the number of deaths, all excess of the total number of deaths over the previous level should be taken into account. If we rely on this approach, then over the past year in the world from covid died much more than 1.8 million people. According to WHO estimates from the annual report “World Health Statistics”, in the European region, excess mortality was 1.11-1.21 million people, which is twice as much as the official statistics on 590 thousand deaths from COVID-19. Based on these discrepancies, WHO experts calculated the approximate number of excess deaths for the whole world – it exceeded 3 million people.

Note that in Russia, official data on deaths directly from the coronavirus and the number of excess deaths during the epidemic also differ. According to statistics, compared to 2019, 323 thousand more people died in 2020, but no more than 60% of them died due to the coronavirus (for more details, see Kommersant on April 27).

As Samira Asma explained during a briefing on Friday, the fact of such a discrepancy is based on WHO’s assumption of an even greater number of deaths at the moment. “The pandemic is evolving and the accuracy of our estimate will continue to improve. But at the moment we assume that it is safe to speak about the lower threshold for the number of deaths of 6-8 million people, ”she explained.

Note that in the future, this figure is likely to be revised – not only because the epidemic continues and the scale of further waves of infections cannot be predicted. Refining demographic statistics after they have been collected is an integral part of data processing. Therefore, the most realistic estimates of the number of deaths may appear only one year after the complete end of the pandemic.

Anastasia Manuilova