Covid Killed About 1 Out of Every 500 People, WHO Report Shows

The Covid-19 death toll probably climbed to almost 15 million in its first two years --about one out of every 500 people globally-- according to a new estimate by the World Health Organization

Healthcare workers hold a meeting while treating patients inside a Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at a field hospital in the Heliopolis favela of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday, March 19, 2021.
By Thomas Mulier and Clara Hernanz Lizarraga
May 05, 2022 | 07:51 AM

Bloomberg — The Covid-19 death toll probably climbed to almost 15 million in its first two years -- about one out of every 500 people globally -- according to a new estimate by the World Health Organization.

The figure, far higher than the official numbers for 2020 and 2021, includes deaths directly due to Covid and those indirectly caused by the pandemic, the Geneva-based health agency said Thursday. The WHO’s new estimate is more than twice the figures from individual governments’ reports showing about 6.2 million Covid deaths.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.


The toll was found by calculating the difference between all deaths that occurred and those that would have been expected to occur under normal circumstances. More than one-third of the additional 9 million deaths are estimated to have occurred in India, a country that has disputed the WHO’s new figure and delayed the release of the report, according to the New York Times. Narendra Modi’s government has been standing by its own count of 523,900 deaths.

Other large developing countries, such as Indonesia and Egypt, are also believed to be undercounting pandemic deaths, according to the Times.

The WHO said the number of deaths was most likely to be 14.9 million, the WHO said, though it could have been as low as 13.3 million or as high as 16.6 million. Many deaths occurred as the pandemic overwhelmed health systems, hampering access to treatment for other health conditions, the report said.

“Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic,” Samira Asma, assistant director for data, analytics and delivery at the WHO, said in the statement. “Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden.”

Covid surpassed tuberculosis as the biggest infectious-disease killer in the world. The lung condition killed 1.5 million people in 2020, according to the Geneva-based agency.