May 6 (UPI) — The World Health Organization said Thursday that about 15 million people have died worldwide over the past two years as a result of COVID-19 and its impact on health systems, which is more than twice the present death toll of 6 million.
The new estimate comes from an excess mortality study between January 2020 and January 2021 that calculated the difference between the total deaths and the total that would have been expected, based on previous years, if COVID-19 hadn’t happened.
The organization said the estimate margin has a range in which the total deaths could be as low as 13.3 million or as high as 16.6 million.
According to the WHO’s existing figures, there have been 6.2 million COVID-19-related deaths reported worldwide.
The new estimate accounts for people who died as a direct result of the coronavirus disease, or indirectly because hospital systems were overwhelmed with cases of the virus.
“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 Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
The organization said that most of the extra deaths — 84% — were concentrated in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas and affected men (57%) more than women (43%). The difference was also higher among older adults.