More than 2.8 million people have lost their lives due to the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 59 countries and jurisdictions. This tally offers the most comprehensive view yet of the pandemic’s global impact. Deaths in these places last year surged more than 12% above average levels.
Less than two-thirds of that surge has been attributed directly to Covid-19. Public-health experts believe that many, if not most, of the additional deaths were directly linked to the disease, particularly early in the pandemic when testing was sparse. Some of those excess deaths came from indirect fallout, from health-care disruptions, people avoiding the hospital and other issues.
Tracking all of these deaths, and doing it quickly, is vital to help understand the breadth of the crisis, public-health experts say.
“Measuring total deaths gives you a readout if things are getting better or worse,” said Colin Mathers, a retired coordinator of the World Health Organization’s Mortality and Health Analysis Unit. “If you see a sudden rise in heart disease, it may be linked to Covid-19, but if there’s a rise in cancer it may be because of people fearing to go to the hospital.”