How Many People Have Died of Covid-19?
Why the true number of deaths is probably higher than our official count
The Covid-19 pandemic has been fraught with unknowns, from the nature of the disease to broader societal impacts and everything in between. The last 15 months have often been more about the endless cavalcade of things we don’t really understand than the few facts we can be sure of.
Nowhere is this more true than in the figures we take for granted as accurate. I wrote recently about how unsure we are of the true number of Covid-19 cases in the world. There’s another place where precise figures are much more fluid than you might imagine.
I’m talking about the number of people who have died from Covid-19.
Now, the initial response to the question of how many people have died is to simply go to one of the many excellent dashboards that collate worldwide Covid-19 data and simply read off the figures. According to most data collations, the number is somewhere around 3 million deaths as of April 2021, and still steadily climbing.
But the thing is, confirmed deaths are not a perfect representation of the true number of fatalities. With most diseases, we have to carefully estimate the true number of deaths, because it’s quite complex to know if someone died of a disease, especially when they weren’t tested for it.
There are, ultimately, two possibilities when it comes to Covid-19 deaths. We could be undercounting the death toll, or overcounting it (technically it could also be perfectly accurate, but as I’ll explain, this is very unlikely). However, it appears based on quite a bit of recent evidence that we are probably undercounting Covid-19 deaths, and potentially by quite a large margin. The true death toll from Covid-19 could be nearly double the official number of 3 million.
Let’s look at the data.