The problem is that 85 of the 194 countries surveyed by WHO Technical Advisory Group gives new estimates that don’t have a good enough death register for this to be a viable approach. Forty one of those countries is located in sub-Saharan Africa.
For these countries, a team led by Jonathan Wakefield, a statistician at the University of Washington in Seattle, used data from countries with full death registries to build a statistical model Others can predict total COVID deaths in any given month from other measures, including temperature, percentage of positive COVID tests, ratings of the rigor of social distancing and other measures to limit infection, and the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease—conditions that put people at high risk of dying from COVID.
The Indian Ministry of Health strongly opposed this 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 falls into the group of intermediate countries with reasonable data on total deaths in some regions but not in others. So, Wakefield’s team used data from 17 Indian states with full death registers, applying the standard excess number of deaths approach used for countries with full death registers. full deaths, and then extrapolate from these states to the entire nation.
Wakefield told BuzzFeed News: “We just based our prediction of the number of deaths in India for those two years on the Indian data.
Importantly, the WHO estimate of COVID deaths in India is also consistent with other studies, including one Published in the journal Science in January by a team led by Prabhat Jha, director of the Center for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto in Canada. Jha’s team estimated the number of COVID deaths from Indian government data and from a national survey of 137,000 people, conducted by a polling company that asked people whether a member Has a family member died of COVID? “India has pretty high cell phone coverage and they did random dialing,” Jha told BuzzFeed News.
Jha’s team estimates that more than 3.2 million people in India have died of COVID by July 2021, the majority of them in severe increase in COVID caused by Delta coronavirus variant from April to June 2021. That comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government eased COVID control measures following an earlier wave of less severe. “The Indian government declared victory and said, ‘Oh, India has defeated this virus,’ and complacency started to set in,” Jha said.
This explains the political sensitivity in India to accept results from studies that show a much higher death toll than the official figure. In response to questions from opposition Congress party leaders about Jha’s research in February, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare described it is “speculative” and claims it “lacks any peer-reviewed scientific data” – even though it has been published in one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed scientific journals.
“It’s politics,” Jha said of the Indian government’s rejection of his research.
According to WHO, Egypt has the lowest death rate from the pandemic, with a fatality rate 11.6 times higher than the number of deaths caused by COVID. India, with its death toll exceeding 9.9 times its official number of COVID deaths, is in second place. Meanwhile, Russia has reported 3.5 times fewer COVID deaths than the excess mortality rate.
Ariel Karlinsky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, another member of the WHO’s technical advisory group, hopes the agency’s “seal of approval” for excess mortality calculations will encourage countries to bring in more realistic numbers. “Putin doesn’t know who I am, but they know who WHO is,” he told BuzzFeed News.
But instead of adjusting their COVID deaths, some governments appear to be withholding all-cause mortality data used to calculate excess deaths. Karlinsky said Belarus, which appears to be undercounting its COVID deaths by a factor of 12, has stopped reporting its all-cause mortality data to the United Nations. “The mortality section just disappeared.”
For now, the main concern is China, which is experiencing a significant wave of the Omicron coronavirus variant but reported a number of suspicious deaths. If the wave currently making landfall in Shanghai and other cities match the pattern seen in Hong Kong since February, Jha fears that a million Chinese could die.
Several countries have responded to excess mortality studies with greater accountability and transparency. After previous analyzes of excess deaths showed that Peru underreported its COVID deaths by a factor of 2.7, the South American country go through its medical and death records in detail and revised the May 2021 death toll to a figure that closely matches the analysis of excess deaths. It is currently reporting highest official death rate per capita from COVID of any country. “Peru did what I wanted every country to do,” Karlinsky said.
The WHO’s new estimate of the total number of deaths from the pandemic in excess will include those who die from other causes because of an overwhelmed health system, as well as those killed by the coronavirus.
Karlinsky, an economist, said he started analyzing the excess deaths because he wondered if “the cure is worse than the disease” – in particular, he fears that the shutdown might causes more deaths than coronavirus, in part due to an increase in suicides. But the data told a very different story.
In countries like New Zealand, where there is a strict lockdown but low levels of COVID, there are no signs of excess deaths. There is also no evidence of suicide globally during the pandemic – in the US, suicides actually decrease. According to Karlinsky, only in some countries like Nicaragua, where people seem to avoid going to the hospital for fear of getting infected, are there signs of death from other causes such as heart disease.
He added: “The excess mortality rate is comparable to the mortality rate from COVID.