The true number of people who have died as a result of COVID-19 could be as high as six to eight million – more than double the official figure, the World Health Organization has warned.
The official global death toll for 2020 was 1.8 million people, but presenting its annual World Health Statistics report, the WHO estimated that total deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 were at least three million.
It said, “We are likely facing a significant undercount of total deaths directly and indirectly attributed to COVID-19.”
WHO data analyst William Msemburi said this estimate included both unreported COVID-19 deaths – where people did not get tested – as well as indirect deaths due to the lack of hospital capacity and other restrictions.
The UN agency officially estimates that around 3.4 million people have died directly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic by May 2021. But the overall excess mortality figures suggest the true count is higher.