The problem is that 85 of the 194 countries surveyed by the WHO Technical Advisory Group have produced new estimates, but there are not good enough death registries, so this is not a viable approach. 41 of these countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa.

For these countries, a team led by statistician Jonathan Wakefield of the University of Washington in Seattle used data from countries with complete death registries to build another statistical model capable of predicting COVID-19 in any month through other metrics, including temperature The total number of deaths, the percentage of people who test positive for COVID, the severity of social distancing and other infection-limiting measures, and the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease — diseases that put people at high risk of dying from COVID.

India’s health ministry strongly opposed the model in response to the New York Times article. But the WHO team didn’t actually use it to estimate the number of COVID deaths in India. India belongs to the middle group of countries and has fairly good figures in terms of total deaths in some regions but not in others. So Wakefield’s team used data from 17 Indian states with adequate death registries, applied the standard excess-death approach used for countries with complete death registries, and then extrapolated from those states to the country as a whole.

Wakefield told BuzzFeed News: “We’re only predicting how many people will die in India over the two years based on Indian data.”

Importantly, WHO’s estimates of COVID-19 deaths in India are also consistent with other studies, including one published in January in Science by a team led by Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto in Canada. . Jha’s team estimated the COVID death toll based on Indian government data and a national survey of 137,000 people by a polling firm that asked people if a family member had died from COVID. “India has a lot of cell phone coverage, and they dial randomly,” Jha told BuzzFeed News.

Jha’s team estimates that by July 2021, more than 3.2 million people have died from COVID in India, most of them during the devastating surge of COVID caused by the Delta coronavirus variant between April 2021 and June 2021. After an earlier, less severe wave, Modi eased COVID-19 control. “The Indian government declared victory and said, ‘Oh, India beat this virus,’ and then the complacency kicked in,” Jia said.

This explains India’s political sensitivity to accepting findings that show the death toll is much higher than the official tally. In response to questions from the opposition Congress leader about the Jha study in February, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare described it as “speculative” and claimed it “lacks any peer-reviewed scientific data” – despite it being published in One of the world’s leading peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“It’s a political issue,” Jha said of the Indian government’s rejection of his research.

Egypt has the largest share of deaths from the pandemic, with an excess mortality rate 11.6 times higher than the death toll from the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. India has the second-highest excess death toll, 9.9 times its official COVID death toll. Meanwhile, Russia has reported 3.5 times fewer COVID deaths than its excess fatality rate.

Another member of the WHO’s technical advisory group, Ariel Kalinsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, hopes the agency’s “seal of approval” for excess mortality calculations will encourage countries to come up with more realistic figures. “Putin doesn’t know who I am, but they do know who the World Health Organization is,” he told BuzzFeed News.

However, some governments apparently did not act to correct their COVID death tolls, but withheld the all-cause mortality data used to calculate excess deaths. Belarus, which appears to have underestimated its COVID death toll by a factor of about 12, has stopped reporting its all-cause mortality data to the United Nations, Kalinsky said. “The part about mortality just disappeared.”

Right now, the main focus is on China, which is experiencing a notable wave of Omicron coronavirus variants but has reported suspiciously few deaths. If the wave now hitting Shanghai and other cities matches the pattern Hong Kong has seen since February, Jha worries that a million Chinese could die.

Some countries have responded to the plethora of mortality studies with greater accountability and transparency. The South American country scrutinized its medical and death records and revised its May 2021 death toll to closely match the excess-death analysis after an earlier excess-death analysis suggested Peru underreported its COVID-19 deaths by a factor of 2.7 matching numbers. It now reports the highest official per capita COVID death rate of any country. “Peru did what I want every country to do,” Kalinsky said.

The WHO’s new estimate of the total number of deaths from the pandemic will include those who died from other causes as health systems were overwhelmed, as well as those who died from the coronavirus.

Kalinsky, an economist, said he started analyzing the excess deaths because he wanted to know “whether the cure is worse than the disease” — in particular, he worries that the lockdown could lead to more deaths than the coronavirus , partly because of an increase in suicides. But the data tells a very different story.

In countries such as New Zealand, which have imposed strict lockdowns but have low coronavirus infection rates, there have been no signs of excess deaths. There’s also no evidence of a global prevalence of suicide during the pandemic — suicides have actually declined in the United States. Only in a few countries, including Nicaragua, people appear to be avoiding hospitals for fear of being infected, but there are signs of an increase in deaths from other causes, such as heart disease, Kalinsky said.

“The excess mortality rate is approximately equal to the COVID mortality rate,” he added.