Story at a glance

  • The study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates COVID-19 has killed approximately 6.9 million people worldwide.
  • That’s a significant increase from the 3.2 million deaths currently reported.
  • “As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” Chris Murray, IHME’s director, said.

The global coronavirus death toll may be more than double the official count as COVID-19 cases have been widely underreported in nearly every country, according to a new analysis from scientists at the University of Washington. 

The study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates COVID-19 has killed approximately 6.9 million people worldwide since the pandemic kicked off in early 2020, a significant figure compared with the more than 3.2 million deaths currently reported. 


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“As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic appears, this analysis shows that the actual toll is significantly worse,” Chris Murray, IHME’s director, said in a in a news release

“Understanding the true number of COVID-19 deaths not only helps us appreciate the magnitude of this global crisis, but also provides valuable information to policymakers developing response and recovery plans,” Murray said. 

The analysis notes many coronavirus deaths go unreported as countries only report deaths that take place in hospitals or in patients with confirmed infections. This is exacerbated in countries with a lack of access to health care and weak reporting systems. 

IHME researchers estimate COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 905,289 people in the U.S., a huge jump from the current official death toll of nearly 575,000. The U.S. has the highest official COVID-19 death count in the world followed by Brazil and India.

In India, where the virus has overwhelmed the health care system, the analysis forecasts more than 654,000 people have died from the coronavirus, about three times higher than its official death toll of 221,181. 

The IHME says Brazil likely has a total of nearly 600,000 deaths, compared with the more than 408,000 reported. 

“Many countries have devoted exceptional effort to measuring the pandemic’s toll, but our analysis shows how difficult it is to accurately track a new and rapidly spreading infectious disease,” Murray said. 


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Published on May 07, 2021