Just how deadly is coronavirus?
Although the death rates being reported vary wildly, one thing is for certain: Coronavirus deaths are being significantly underreported.
Some countries might be intentionally manipulating their data, but another big factor is that a lot of people are dying all over the world without being tested for the virus. With test shortages across the planet, many areas are simply unable to waste a test on a person who is already dead.
One way we can get a clearer picture of what is actually going on, of course, is by taking a look at the overall deaths seen in particular places and comparing those numbers to those seen in previous years. While it’s possible that more people than usual might be dying from other causes, especially if they were unwilling or unable to go the hospital for treatment for non-coronavirus health issues due to the pandemic, it’s also important to take into account the fact that people aren’t out and about much these days and therefore are less likely to be dying in road accidents or accidents at work, for example.
The Financial Times recently took a closer look at mortality statistics, and what they discovered was deeply disturbing: There have been 122,000 deaths in excess of the normal levels seen in 14 countries that they studied. This is on top of the 77,000 official total COVID-19 deaths reported in those places for the same time period.
If we assume the same degree of underreporting is taking place in other countries – and there’s no reason to think they’d be any different – it could mean that the total global coronavirus deaths are actually far higher than the 201,000 reported; the Financial Times estimates that it could even be as high as 318,000.
The countries studied by the publication included Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Portugal and England, along with urban areas like Jakarta, Indonesia; Bergamo Province, Italy; Guayas, Ecuador; Madrid, Spain; and New York City.
The worst increase in deaths above normal levels was seen in Bergamo, Italy, where a 464 percent rise was noted; New York City was second with a 200 percent rise.
A similar report from the New York Times showed that New York City’s usual death rate quadrupled during the period they studied, which ran from March 9 to April 5. Their study looked at 11 countries, and they found that Spain saw 7,300 more deaths than usual, while England and Wales saw 4,378 more deaths than usual after accounting for confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
The Times noted that limited testing was more likely the problem here rather than any sort of deliberate miscalculation on anyone’s part, but these studies do serve to illustrate just how much worse the problem is than the numbers we are seeing on the news might indicate. Although it’s not an exact science, the general trend is alarming to say the least.
This is something that should be getting a lot more attention as various places around the world start taking steps to end their lockdowns and resume normal levels of activity; it is vital to base these life-and-death decisions on accurate data. Experts have been warning for quite some time that ending lockdowns early could cause a second wave of new infections that could hit a lot harder than the first one – and that’s something the world is truly unprepared for right now.
Sources for this article include: