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AUGUST 2022

Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality

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Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality

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Written by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It has dominated news cycles, debates and policies since 2020, but COVID-19 continues to exercise the interest of number crunchers and talliers.  While the ghoulish daily press announcements about infections and deaths across many a country have diminished and, in some cases, disappeared altogether, publications abound about how many were taken in the pandemic.

The World Health Organization, ever that herald of dark news, has offered a revised assessment across of the SARS-CoV-2 death toll associated either directly or indirectly with the pandemic.  Between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the global health body suggests that the mortality figure is closer to 14.9 million, with a range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million.

The number considers excess mortality, the figure reached after accounting for the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred, and the number expected in the absence of the pandemic.  It also accounts for deaths occasioned directly by COVID-19, or indirectly (for instance, the pandemic’s disruption of society and health systems).

The impact, as expected, has been disproportionate in terms of which countries have suffered more.  Of the excess deaths, 68% were concentrated in 10 countries – Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States.  Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of excess deaths; high-income countries, for 15%, and low-income countries, 4%.

The United States, if only for being ascendant in terms of power, wealth, and incompetence in dealing with the virus, finds itself in the undistinguished position of having lost a million people.  “Today,” remarked President Joe Biden, “we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, one million COVID deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses, each leaving behind a family, a community forever changed because of this pandemic.”

Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Anthony Fauci, rued the fact that “at least a quarter of those deaths, namely about 250,000” might have been saved by vaccinations.  He also warned about the ugly prospect of a resurgence in numbers, and not bringing “down our guard”.

In light of such figures, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterates the line he and his colleagues have done so for months.  Pandemics demand more “resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems”.  His organisation “was committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”  Much of this will be wishful thinking.

Figures, certainly when they concern matters of mortality, can become the subject of bitter dispute.  COVID-19 has proved no exception.  In Africa, 41 of 54 countries reported insufficient data.  Some countries have released incomplete data sets; others, none to speak of.  This meant, inevitably, that the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group for COVID-19 Mortality Assessment could only model the missing figures to fill gaps.

As a result scrapping and arguments over methodology duly emerged.  India, for one, has very publicly objected to the way the WHO has approached the compilation, communicating its concerns in no less than six letters between November 2021 and March 2022 and in a number of virtual meetings.  Concerns have also been registered by WHO Member States, including China, Iran, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The case with India is particularly telling, given WHO modelling showing 4,740,894 excess deaths, almost triple that of New Delhi’s own figures.  Such figures imply, as epidemiologist Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto claimed back in January, that the authorities were “trying to suppress the numbers in the way that they coded the COVID deaths.”

In an indignant statement from the Union Health Ministry released early this month, much is made of “how the statistical model projects estimates for a country of geographical size & population of India and also fits in with other countries which have smaller population.”  This constituted an unacceptable “one-size-fits-all approach and models which are true for smaller countries like Tunisia may not be applicable to India with a population of 1.3 billion.”

The WHO model also returned two highly varied sets of excess mortality estimates when using data from Tier 1 countries and when using data from 18 Indian states that had not been verified.  “India has asserted that if the model [is] accurate and reliable, it should be authenticated by running it for all Tier 1 countries” and the “result of such exercise may be shared with all Member States.”

WHO assistant director general for emergency response, Ibrahima Soće Fall, concedes that any accurate picture is only as complete as the data provided.  “We know where the data gaps are, and we must collectively intensify our support to countries, so that every country has the capability to track outbreaks in real time, ensure delivery of essential health services, and safeguard population health.”

The degree of fractiousness that persists in public health shows that sharp fault lines remain in each country’s approach to the pandemic problem.  Disunity and factionalism, petty nationalism and self-interest, remain imperishable, even at the direst of times.  And all governments, given the chance, will err on the side of inaccuracy rather than risk acute embarrassment.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He currently lectures at RMIT University.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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Curiosity kills the cat

The world is as healthy as the minds of the people.

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Slobodan Praljak

The Finns will take Karelia. Fauci, however, will clean up a Russia. One good virus and the prediction of Dr. Robert Strecker will come true.

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Slobodan Praljak

Dr. Fauci will take care of the Russians. He will create a virus as predicted by Dr. Robert Strecker. Dilyana. bg wrote that she is already doing it. Russia will be empty. Z means Zombieland.

Slobodan Praljak

Dr. Fauci will kill all Russians.

John

Will that include my own children? If not, will you send someone over to my house to murder them, or come over yourself? And, will you want a cup of tea while you are working – you might get thirsty, I have twelve children.

Slobodan Praljak

I do not. Fauci will do it.

berliner

there are no viruses at all. gosh how tf can anyone still believe this crap :D

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John

The poison is in the vaccine

Slobodan Praljak

Dr. Fauci will take care of the Russians. He will create a virus as predicted by Dr. Robert Strecker. Dilyana. bg wrote that doctor Fauci already doing it. Russia will be empty. Z means Zombieland

Tommy Jensen

Compared to 45 million Americans on food stamps, its not too bad with 1 million to Corona. You can do it America, and you did it!

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John

As for counting, or even modelling, excess mortality and ascribing it to Covid-19, or effects of lockdown, that is a serious mistake, and I think a conscious decision, to fail to point out that in fact something else was happening that impacted health. Can you guess what it is? Correct, ‘vaccination’ .

You don’t model last year’s mortality, you model growth in a future outcome. You count mortality in the past. If the count doesn’t exist, too bad. Nothing is gained by ‘modelling it’ on a neighbour’s outcome. That process is called projection.

I’m sorry this article and the studies reported by the WHO do not impress me one bit, as an example of so-called science reporting intended to impress somehow, people with poor grasp and confidence if basic Maths and English. Or else, are over-impressed by claims of science and technology in all.

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Roberto

Não tomei vacina, não fiz isolamento nem máscara, e todos na minha região passaram normal esses 2 anos, aqueles que sucumbiram ao medo, isolamento etc morreram e estão morrendo, o terrorismo midiático foi o responsável pelas vítimas

Roberto

Não vi nada diferente na minha região em 2020/21, sem máscara sem Lockdowns , somente quem estava isolado em Pânico morreu pelo terrorismo midiático

Bloop

More fake news from (((South Front))). The coronavirus is a hoax that only dim-witted sheeple are taken in by it.

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