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Death toll from pandemic 15 million - WHO

Friday May 6th 2022

Nearly 15 million people globally lost their lives in the first two years of the COVID pandemic because of the virus, according to a new World Health Organization estimate.

The number represents the likely extent of excess mortality in 2020 and 2021 and could be as high as 16.6 million, according to the estimates published yesterday.

It includes those who died directly from the virus and those who died because of restrictions on health care - and also reductions in mortality because of reduced deaths from road accidents.

WHO said 84% of the excess deaths were in Europe, the Americas and South-East Asia - and 81% were in middle income countries. The WHO study also found that men were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 57% of the excess deaths were among men.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "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, including stronger health information systems.

"WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes."

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, said the size of the death toll was "not inevitable."

He said: "There have been too many times in the past two years when world leaders have failed to act at the level needed to save lives. Even now a third of the world's population remains unvaccinated.

"More must be done to protect people from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and shield humanity against future risks. Climate change, shifting patterns of animal and human interaction, urbanisation and increasing travel and trade are creating more opportunities for new and dangerous infectious disease risks to emerge, amplify and then spread.

"Governments must learn from this crisis and act immediately to end this pandemic, and make sure they do everything they can to prevent this ever happening again. This means building and sustaining national and global surveillance networks to detect outbreaks before they escalate, supporting national and global networks of public health professions who can swiftly respond when an epidemic starts and vastly expanding and equitably distributing R&D and manufacturing capacity for vaccines, treatments and diagnostics."

Tags: Asia | Europe | Flu & Viruses | North America | South America | World Health

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