The coronavirus pandemic claimed more than 3 million excess deaths, or 1.2 million more than officially reported, in the year 2020, according to a new report by the World Health Organisation on Friday.
While the WHO's official death toll due to Covid-19 is around 3.4 million so far, the actual number could be at least 6-8 million, showed the global health body's annual World Health Statistics report 2021.
"This number would truly be two to three times higher. So I think safely about 6-to-8 million deaths could be an estimate on a cautionary note," WHO's Assistant Director General for Data and Analytics, Samira Asma, was quoted as saying at a virtual briefing.
The current estimate can be explained by under-reporting by countries on the number of infections and deaths tolls, the WHO report said.
"At the time of writing, more than 160 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3.3 million deaths had been reported to WHO. Yet these numbers are only a partial picture, as many countries have not been able to accurately measure and report on deaths that are either directly or indirectly attributable to Covid-19," WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in the report.
"One of the greatest lessons from the pandemic is the importance of timely, reliable, actionable and disaggregated data. This requires strong country data and health information systems through collaboration between governments, ministries of health, national statistical offices, and registrar generals," he aid.
He also suggested engagement with the private sector, academia, nonprofit organisations, and the scientific community to ensure data is accessible as a public good.
WHO's World Health Statistics report 2021 presents the latest data for more than 50 health-related indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals and WHO's "triple billion" targets.
The report showed that the region of the Americas and the European Region have been the most affected due to Covid, together comprising over three quarters of cases reported globally, with respective case rates per 100,000 population of 5,999 and 5,455.
Of the 23.1 million cases reported in the South-East Asia Region to date, over 86 per cent are attributed to India. Almost half (48 per cent) of all reported Covid-19-associated deaths have occurred in the Region of the Americas, and one third (34 per cent) in the European Region.
It also found that despite the extensive spread of the virus, Covid-19 cases to date are concentrated predominantly in high-income countries (HICs).
Further, available global data show that the number of Covid-19 cases does not differ significantly between males and females (48.7 per cent vs 51.3 per cent of all reported cases), however the number of deaths is markedly higher among males than females (57.6 per cent vs 42.4 per cent of all deaths).
Covid-19 also ranked sixth in the top 10 of causes of death globally in 2020, after ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory infections and neonatal conditions.